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#ausvotes: Twitter Activity across the Electorates

Posted In News - By On Thursday, August 22nd, 2013 With 0 Comments

Over at Mapping Online Publics, we’ve begun to cover the role of Twitter during the 2013 Australian federal election. Following on from yesterday’s update of overall Twitter activity patterns around Australian federal politicians’ and candidates’ accounts, here’s a slightly different look at the same data, crossposted from MOP – and before I forget again, I want to say my sincere thanks to CCI researchers Darryl Woodford and Andrew Quodling for their work in pulling together and formatting the data for the purposes of visualisation. After the election, I hope we’ll follow up with some more methodological discussion of how we’re using Tableau to create these geographic maps.

As I’ve explained in the previous posts, what we’re doing in our election research is to track all tweets by and @mentions of sitting members and candidates in the 2013 federal election. As more (especially minor party) candidates have become known, we’ve progressively extended our list as far as possible.

In this post, we’re relating such activity to the electorates in which the candidates are standing (this necessarily excludes Senators and Senate candidates, therefore, who don’t have local electorates). The resulting maps show the local electoral races which have received especially much attention on Twitter, because of local issues or because of the national prominence of their local candidates. They also make for interesting reading alongside Guardian Australia’s map of where the leaders have been making campaign stops so far.

In the maps which follow, we’ve shown Twitter activity since the start of July. The stronger the red colouring of an electorate, the more @mentions its candidates have received – and just to make this absolutely clear, that Twitter attention may have come from anywhere in the country (and even from overseas), not just from Twitter users who are actually based in the local electorate itself. (Incidentally, for those of you who are interested in such things: colouring is applied on a logarithmic scale – otherwise only Rudd’s and Abbott’s electorates would show up in bright red.) Click to enlarge the images.


First, then, here’s a national overview, which largely reflects where the major population centres are: there’s more activity in the Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane / Gold Coast regions than anywhere else in the country. However, a few outliers appear even from this way out – Bob Katter’s north Queensland seat of Kennedy is more active because Katter has received significant national attention (or notoriety, take your pick)  as the leader of a fledgling political party. Similarly, the northern and central NSW seats of retiring Independents Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott are receiving attention because both of them have been such important figures in Australian politics over the past legislative period, with further attention on New England (just south of the Queensland border) because LNP Senator Barnaby Joyce is now a National Party candidate for that seat.

Further south in NSW there’s also the famous bellwether seat of Eden-Monaro, held by comparatively active Twitter user and Labor minister Mike Kelly – and across the border to Victoria, the seat of Indi, held by controversial Liberal member Sophie Mirabella is also receiving substantial attention. This may be related to recent reports suggesting that Mirabella is faced with a credible challenge from her Independent opponent Cathy McGowan this time around.

Also notable on this overall map, however, are the mostly rural and remote electorates in which Twitter does not yet play any role at all (in grey) – these are electorates whose candidates either don’t have Twitter accounts, or haven’t yet received a single @mention since July. This also provides a reflection on where the use of Twitter may have an impact during the campaign of course.

Most of the major centres are difficult to make out from a distance, however – time, then, to zoom in for a closer look at the various state capitals and surrounding areas. (The numbers behind each electorate name indicate the combined number of @mentions its candidates have received since the start of July.) In Queensland, the electorate of Griffith (home to PM Kevin Rudd) necessarily leads the way, but a number of other interesting flashpoints also emerge. These include Rankin, where retiring MP Craig Emerson has chosen to go out with a bang rather than a whimper; Forde, where former state Premier Peter Beattie has been recruited to reclaim the seat for Labor; as well as Lilley, held by Deputy PM-turned-backbencher Wayne Swan. On the Sunshine Coast, former Speaker Peter Slipper’s seat of Fisher is as hotly contested on Twitter as it is elsewhere – and just to the north of it, billionaire Clive Palmer is making his well-publicised run for parliament.

South-East Queensland

In Sydney, a number of city seats predictably show up in red mainly because they are held by leading federal politicians including Opposition Leader Tony Abbott (Warringah), Joe Hockey (North Sydney), Scott Morrison (Cook), and Malcolm Turnbull (Wentworth). Prominent Labor members from the area include Deputy PM Anthony Albanese (Grayndler), Tony Burke (Watson), Tanya Plibersek (Sydney), and Ed Husic (Chifley). The substantial level of activity around each of these seats should not surprise us, therefore.

Greater Sydney

In Melbourne, sole Greens MP Adam Bandt is the centre of much attention in the eponymous electoral division as he attempts to hang on to his seat. Next door in Maribyrnong, Labor powerbroker Bill Shorten also attracts considerable @mentions, and opposition climate change spokesman Greg Hunt’s seat of Flinders flares up not least because of the considerable number of tweets by smaller parties which have been targetting him over the Coalition’s climate change policy (from both scientific and denalist perspectives, no less). Most active is Lalor, however, where former PM Julia Gillard, retiring at the election, is still receiving substantial @mentions even though she has tweeted only once since 1 July. The darker red area in the north-east is the lower end of Indi, incidentally.

Greater Melbourne

The most active electorates in the Adelaide area are Port Adelaide, held by Mark Butler, and Adelaide, held by Kate Ellis – both of them Labor ministers. As far as I can tell, there’s only a fake Chris Pyne on Twitter, and we’re not counting his @mentions towards the electorate of Sturt, so his electorate remains inactive to date – though we may not have picked up on the Twitter activity around the other local candidates there.


The Perth area shows even more grey as soon as we get further away from the city itself. Here, opposition foreign policy spokeswoman Julie Bishop’s Curtin electorate is most active, unsurprisingly; this is followed by Dennis Jensen’s Tangney division and – more interestingly – by Australia’s most marginal Liberal seat of Hasluck, held by the nation’s first indigenous MP, Ken Wyatt.


The remaining state and two territories can be covered very quickly – nothing much to see here. In Tasmania, only Independent Andrew Wilkie’s seat of Denison shows any signs of life (and then, not much):


In the ACT, Labor’s Gai Brodtmann isn’t generating much activity for the Canberra electorate, while Fraser (with its strange coastal exclave, the Jervis Bay Territory – hence the equidistant placement of its label on our map) is held by Labor MP Andrew Leigh, an active blogger and Twitter user who therefore attracts considerably more @mentions:


Finally, neither of the two Northern Territory electorates are earthshatteringly active. However, the fact that Labor MP Warren Snowdon’s immensely large electorate of Lingiari generates any Twitter activity at all is itself noteworthy, perhaps, compared to the poorer performance of many of the other rural and remote electorates across WA, SA, and Queensland.


So much for a first glimpse at the geographic distribution of Twitter attention across the federal electorates, then. We’ll check in again later in the campaign to see whether Twitter activity provides any indication that new electorates have come into play as the parties’ fortunes wax or wane.

About the Author

- Axel Bruns is a Professor in the Digital Media Research Centre at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, where he leads the Digital Publics programme.

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