The personal in political tweets: The use of Twitter during the 2010 British and Dutch General Elections

A session at Twitter and Microblogging: Political, Professional and Personal Practices

Thursday 11th April, 2013

3:35pm to 4:05pm

Twitter, once created to share personal status updates, has become one of the most prominent social networks. This site has grown from a sharing platform for the internet savvy to a worldwide known microblog, attracting over 500 million users generating about 340 million tweets daily. Thus, it was only a matter of time before politicians entered this brave new world. Indeed, politicians across Western democracies are increasingly experimenting with Twitter, particularly during election time. Besides campaign updates and promotion, Twitter is being used to give citizens a glimpse into a candidate’s personal life, e.g. to raise confidence and establish a closer relationship with the public. This paper investigates the personal in political candidates’ tweets during the 2010 British and Dutch general election campaigns. The aim is to map the various ways in which candidates use the personal in a political context. First, a content analysis of tweets (n = 54,327) from all twittering British (Conservatives, Labour and LibDems) and Dutch (10 seat-holding parties) candidates was conducted. This was followed by a qualitative analysis of a group of selected candidates’ personal tweets. The analysis showed that politicians share their private lives on Twitter to a certain extent. A notable percentage of tweets (5% in the British case and 9% in the Dutch case) contained purely personal information, e.g. about family and leisure, whereas in many of the political tweets, the personal gets intermingled with the political for more strategic purposes. The qualitative analysis will show how these personal stories and experiences are mingled with the political and how this may create a sense of intimacy with the public (followers).

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Todd Graham

University of Groningen

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Time 3:35pm4:05pm GMT

Date Thu 11th April 2013

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