Sunday, December 8, 2019

In Search Of Australia's Most Ratioed Political Tweets

(This article is updated regularly - original introductory text below.  To save people the effort of scrolling through to see if a recent tweet has been added, I will be noting the most recent addition at the top.  The most recent addition is by Dave Sharma, 11 Jan 2021)

Note new rule added 1 Dec 2020 to address tweets with replies disabled.)

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.  (Labor politicans do get ratioed sometimes, but only for things like promoting the coal industry, trying to out-nasty the Coalition on refugees, particularly silly attacks on the Greens or nobly standing up for the correct naming of foodstuffs.)

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

Sometimes a ratioed tweet by a minor political figure might not be especially political.  However if it is being ratioed for largely political reasons and is in some sense political I will treat it as such.  Tweets by major political figures (including at least all federal MPs and state major party leaders) will be included even if they are completely and clearly apolitical.

 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.  Where a tweet starts getting ratioed outside its first day in existence, the 72 hour period starts from when it started getting ratioed (this rule was added on 3 April 2020 and may be known as the "Sarina Russo clause".)

It is harder to find ratio cases before 2017 because the term "ratio" was less in vogue.  

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 (8) and Angus Taylor (5). Wilson has one in the top ten.  Ex-politician Alexander Downer has five including two top tens. Stuart Robert and Dave Sharma have three.

All top ten ratios were last rechecked together on 14-15 June 2020.  Ratios will fluctuate as accounts are deleted or tweets get stray late likes and replies.  

(* Note added 9 July - there is one now after Adam Bandt said something very silly re Eden-Monaro!)

New rule added 1 Dec 2020,  "coward tweet clause": where the original tweet limits who can reply to it, an alternative ratio measure (quote tweets divided by retweets or QT/RT) will be employed instead.  My initial investigations have found that QT/RT is generally but not always somewhat lower than R/L and the two are usually fairly correlated.  Seven of the top ten tweets by R/L as of 1 Dec 2020 are also in the top ten I could find by QT/RT, with Caleb Bond's tweet miles ahead of the others.  

1. Mitch Fifield 25.86

2. Alexander Downer 19.09

3. Mary Wooldridge 18.97

4. Caleb Bond 18.74

When I rechecked this tweet in June 2020 I found it had accumulated a further batch of replies around Jan 8, jumping up to now almost 1100 replies.

5. Josephine Cashman 17.89

Although this tweet tags ecologist Jack Pascoe, it is actually criticising his father Bruce Pascoe, whose Aboriginality (or not) was 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.

6. Alexander Downer 16.48

7. Sarina Russo 15.88

(6 April 2020): What is this tweet, a seemingly innocent gee-up message to jobseekers, doing here and why did it get ratioed?  Sarina Russo's Job Access business holds a contract with the government providing services to jobseekers who have to comply with mutual obligation requirements (currently suspended as of April 2020) in order to receive benefits.  Russo's business is disliked - even in comparison to other similar providers - by many unemployed workers' advocates who accuse it of profiting from the misery inflicted on Centrelink recipients. Russo herself is a donor to both major parties but more so to the Coalition, and is on an advisory board to the Queensland government.  Effectively her video says that despite the COVID-19 crisis which has put a large chunk of the workforce out of work, shutting down whole industries, everything is normal, her business model is OK to continue and jobseekers will still find work - a politically-charged thing to be saying right now.

This tweet was ignored in its first week and had three likes and no replies when Jeremy Poxon quote-tweeted it, leading to it being rapidly ratioed.  Another Russo tweet that started getting ratioed by a lot of the same people a few hours later has now hit a ratio of 35.6, which would put it at the top of my list, but I think the case for that one being a political tweet is weaker and haven't included it yet.  It's not the first time this has happened either - I found a Russo tweet from last year with 49 replies to one like, but haven't yet found it again.

8. Tim Wilson 15.85

9. Melissa Price 15.20

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

10. Stuart Robert 14.48

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.

Melissa Price 14.34

Paul Fletcher 11.58 (approx)

This was the first tweet admitted by the alternative ratio of quote tweets to retweets as the original tweet limited replies to people mentioned via the @ sign in it (of whom there were none).

Michael Johnsen 11.53

Stuart Robert 11.49

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.  

Gladys Berejiklian 11.31

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

Tim Wilson 10.72

Tim Smith 10.49

This one seemed to have another interesting ratio - of shy likers!  Evidently far more people agreed with Smith's "Dictator" label than bothered to like the tweet (likes can be seen publicly).  (Nah scrub that, votes were purchased!)

David Van 10.15

Tim Wilson 10.04

Alexander Downer 9.87

Hollie Hughes 9.78

This tweet getting ratioed appeared to be partly backwash from two earlier ratioed Hughes tweets (here and here) on the same day.

ABC Q+A 9.56

Adem Somyurek 9.56

This was Somyurek's final primary tweet before being sacked as a Minister and banned from rejoining the ALP (which he resigned from) over a branch-stacking scandal.  It was ratioed immediately following the 60 Minutes expose.

Australian Financial Review 9.38

This one was on 599 replies after 72 hours so I gave it one more.  

Tim Wilson 9.33

Alexander Downer 8.94

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

Dave Sharma (11 Jan 2021) 8.31

Sophie Elsworth 8.21

Alex Hawke 8.05

Christian Porter 7.79

Sky News featuring Angus Taylor 7.77

Tim Wilson 7.43

Malcolm Turnbull 7.33

This tweet from 3 April 2020 was a reply to a reply, which would have been available to Turnbull's followers, hence is eligible for this list.  The tweet above it in the thread had a ratio of 13.09 but was ineligible.

Dave Sharma (10 Jan 2021) 7.27

Angus Taylor 7.19

Jason Falinski 7.11

Institute of Public Affairs 7.08

ABC News 6.96

Nobody likes false equivalence.

Angus Taylor 6.92

Alexander Downer 6.90

Sydney Morning Herald 6.85

Sydney Morning Herald 6.72

Tim Wilson 6.71

Nine News Sydney 6.66

Mathias Cormann on Sky News 6.56

Gladys Berejiklian 6.53

Deb Frecklington 6.42

Michaelia Cash 6.35

Sky News featuring Adam Bandt 6.33

This tweet was deservedly ratioed because the Greens' performance at the by-election was pathetic, dropping a third of their vote to micro-parties despite a fall in the Labor primary.  Bandt also incorrectly claimed that by-elections are always difficult for the Greens (they have won one federal and two state seats in by-elections that they never won again).

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 ...

Dave Sharma (23 Feb 2020) 6.10

Matthew Canavan 6.04

Tim Wilson 6

Angus Taylor 6

Sky News featuring Steven Ciobo 5.92

David Van 5.82

Business Council of Australia 5.72

Angus Taylor 5.69

Hollie Hughes 5.54

Jason Falinski 5.33

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.

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