Sunday, December 8, 2019

In Search Of Australia's Most Ratioed Political Tweets

UK election note: I am covering the UK election count on Twitter.

Following the 2019 federal election defeat, Labor is having a hard time reappraising its relationship with coal.  The party was smacked senseless in mining towns in Queensland and copped a 9.5% swing against it in Hunter (NSW), where Labor voters deserted to One Nation in droves.  At the same time, mixed messages on Adani probably saw it lose votes in the other direction to the Greens in the Queensland Senate race.  Labor MHR for Hunter, Joel Fitzgibbon, has been particularly keen to reconnect with the coal industry following his own somewhere-near-death experience, but when he tried this on Twitter this week, it mostly did not go down well with the natives:

Fitzgibbon's tweet attracted far more replies than likes.  On Twitter this (with varying definitions, eg including or not including retweets as well as or instead of likes, where to set the cutoff etc) is known as being ratioed. The formula I use is simply (number of replies)/(number of likes), counting anything over 1 as an instance.  While there are cases where tweets attract more replies than likes because they provoke a genuinely long discussion or outpourings of sympathy, these exceptions are very rare indeed (especially in politics).  As a general rule, a tweet that is ratioed is so because it has been piled onto by opponents.  Frequently there is a very good reason for that, but in politics the response can be affected by partisan bias.

Twitter ratios tend to fluctuate, and often a ratio that starts out enormous will modify a little as the initial wave of angry responses slows and more casual followers of the author of the tweet see it and like it.  There are also some other aspects that affect the ratio for a tweet that gets an angry response:

1. Australian political Twitter is heavily left-wing.  Thus ratioed tweets by Coalition politicians are very common, by Labor politicians uncommon, and by Greens politicians ... I couldn't actually find one.  A similar pattern is seen with Republicans and Democrats in the US.  Media tweets are quite often ratioed, and this doesn't seem to have much to do with whether the media source is seen as right-wing or not.  ABC tweets are often ratioed by the left if they are seen as letting the side down.

2. Prominent Coalition figures tend to get less severely ratioed than less prominent ones.  This is because the less prominent ones may attract much the same chorus of opposition from left-wing opponents, but the more prominent ones have more likes from their followers to balance it out.

3. Replies can get more severely ratioed than original tweets (here's an example from Alexander Downer with a 24.4 ratio).  A reply, especially a quick one, will be seen by many people in the debate, but followers of the politician may only see it and like it if they are also following the person the politician is replying to.

Here's a good example of point 2.  This tasteless Tony Abbott tweet claiming Bob Hawke as having "a Liberal head" almost as soon as Hawke had died has among the most replies of any ratioed Australian politics tweet I have seen, but its reply-to-likes ratio is "only" 4.11.  (The most replied-to ratioed tweet I have found is one by Pauline Hanson with over 7,000 replies.)

Having established that the ratio is a very skewed metric, the following are, at the time of writing, all Australian political tweets with ratios exceeding 5 to 1 that I have found.  They were found mostly using a range of search terms involving "ratio".  More sophisticated Twitter analytics searching could well unearth many more.  I have applied the following limitations: 

(i) significant political figures/organisations or political media sources (as decided by me) only 
(ii) must have at least 100 replies 
(iii) must not be a reply (including any tweet that opens with a handle), with the exception of replies to self

It is harder to find ratio cases before 2017 because the term "ratio" was less in vogue.  The article will be edited from time to time to update the list, but a 72 hour cooling off period is applied before a tweet will be considered for inclusion.  Disliked tweets tend to start with a very high ratio that cools off over subsequent hours and days.  Please let me know of any over 72 hours old that I have missed.  Once a tweet has been included in the top ten its ratios will be rechecked now and then.

As a general comment, the massive abundance of Coalition tweets in this list just shows how Twitter doesn't reflect political reality.  These people did, after all, win the 2019 election.

The most frequently ratioed politicians so far in my list - including media tweets featuring those politicians - are Tim Wilson (6) and Angus Taylor (5). Wilson has one in the top ten to Taylor's none.  Stuart Robert (3) is in the top ten twice, as is Melissa Price (2).

1. Mitch Fifield 26

(Rechecked 25/1/2020: 546/11/21. Numbers change possibly caused by deleted accounts.).

2. Josephine Cashman 24.57

Although this tweet tags ecologist Jack Pascoe, it is actually criticising his father Bruce Pascoe, whose Aboriginality (or not) has been the focus of much debate in January 2020. Perhaps fortunately, tweet 2 of 2 never arrived.  This site does not endorse the content of the tweet above and reproduces it solely for the purposes of studying Twitter ratios.

3. Mary Wooldridge 19.14

4. Stuart Robert 14.28

5. Melissa Price 14.16

6. Melissa Price 14.10

Price's time as Environment Minister did not attract rave reviews ...

7. Caleb Bond 13.10

8. Stuart Robert 11.92

This should have been a reply to a previous tweet by Robert, but he stuffed up the threading of it, making what was already a jargon-heavy offering of word salad even more perplexing as a standalone.  The actual context was a seminar presentation about "the Morrison Government’s vision for, and progress in delivering, Services Australia."  The tweets above it in the stream attracted almost no attention whatsoever.  

9. Gladys Berejiklian 11.31

The most common reply said simply "#koalakiller", apparently a reference to fire service funding claims, some of which have been given the raspberry by RMIT ABC Fact Check.

10. Tim Wilson 10.72

Outside the top ten

Tweets outside my top ten list are not numbered and ratios will not be rechecked, except if I find out they have moved into the top ten.

Tim Wilson 10.04

ABC Q+A 9.56

Joel Fitzgibbon 8.82

By far the highest scoring Labor tweet I have encountered.

Tim Wilson 8.69

Michaelia Cash 8.56

Josh Frydenberg 8.46

Alex Hawke 8.05

Christian Porter 7.79

Sky News featuring Angus Taylor 7.77

Tim Wilson 7.43

Angus Taylor 7.19

Jason Falinski 7.11

ABC News 6.96

Nobody likes false equivalence.

Angus Taylor 6.92

Sydney Morning Herald 6.85

Sydney Morning Herald 6.72

Tim Wilson 6.71

Mathias Cormann on Sky News 6.56

Gladys Berejiklian 6.53

Michaelia Cash 6.35

Sunrise re Tony Abbott 6.27

Ben English (Daily Telegraph) 6.18

Attacking Bill Shorten's mother was rightly seen as a low blow but ALP strategists have since suggested that when he was explaining, they were losing.

Stuart Robert 6.12

Michael Sukkar 6.10

Ah if only Labor had lost some by-elections, they might not have lost the poll that matters ...

Matthew Canavan 6.04

Tim Wilson 6

Angus Taylor 6

Sky News featuring Steven Ciobo 5.92

Business Council of Australia 5.72

Angus Taylor 5.69

Nicole Chettle (ABC) 5.30

Hamish Macdonald for featuring David Leyonhjelm 5.21

Barnaby Joyce 5.10

Barnaby has a large following so it takes quite an effort for him to get his ratio above about two or three.  Here he does it by correcting a factual error and misspelling the corrector's name.

Amanda Vanstone AO 5.09

This one was odd - most ratioed tweets start off with massive ratios and gradually ease, but this one's ratio started around three or four to one then increased and broke 5:1 after nearly two days.

No comments:

Post a Comment