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 very recent tweet has been added, I will be noting the most recent addition at the top, when I remember that is.  The most recent addition was by ABC Insiders added 5 Mar 24)

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

Revised new rule added 28 Sep 2023 to address tweets with replies disabled partway and regarding quote-tweet changes to above rule.

RULE CHANGES: Effective 1 Jan 2022 new tweets will need to have a ratio over 10:1 to qualify.  They can qualify by either the Replies/Likes method or the Quote Tweet/Retweet method, whichever is higher, subject to at least 100 Replies or Quote Tweets respectively.  However I will only track the latter if (i) replies have been disabled or (ii) I have been notified or otherwise become aware that a given tweet is scoring highly on this score.   Selected tweets with ratios between 5 and 10 will still be added if they are of unusual interest to me - which includes tweets by the left of politics or relating to opinion polling or elections.  )


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 had found was one by Pauline Hanson with over 7,000 replies, until it was overtaken in Sep 2021 by this one by Patricia Karvelas with 18,000!)

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.

Now ex-politician Tim Wilson has by far the most tweets with a ratio exceeding 10-1 (22 such tweets). Paul Fletcher has six, Michael Sukkar has five and long-since ex-politician Alexander Downer has four., as does Dan Tehan  The most featured media programs is ABC Insiders with six, three of them for featuring Angus Taylor. Alan Tudge has two top tens, one from while he was an MP and one after.

All top ten ratios were last rechecked together on 27 Dec 2021; some have been rechecked since.  Ratios will fluctuate as accounts are deleted or tweets get stray late likes and replies.  

(* Note added 9 July 2020 - 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.  

New rules added for replies and quote tweet changes 28 Sep 23, the "axe QandA now clause"  Where a tweet has replies switched off inside the cooling-off period, the ratio used will be the last ratio I saw before replies were switched off, or the first one I saw after, whichever is higher.  Also a note that there is no longer a count of quote tweets readily available so QT/RT may not be used while this remains the case.  

Ratioed Tweets By Bernard Gaynor (section added 19 Feb 21)

On 16 Feb 2021 former Coalition staffer Brittany Higgins alleged she had been raped by another then-staffer in 2019 while working in the office of Defence Minister Lisa Reynolds.  Issues regarding the appalling handling of the matter and who knew what about it when have been very prominent since and the story is developing.  

Bernard Gaynor, a minor "religious right" figure with 4712 followers, made two tweets about the matter on 16 Feb 2021. One of the tweets was quote-tweeted by Dee Madigan and then heavily ratioed.  Within its first 72 hours it was deleted by Twitter for breaching the Twitter rules, but another expressing equivalent sentiments is still up and now has a ratio of 33.84 (643-19)  I decline to reproduce Gaynor's victim-blaming tweet.

On 17 Feb 2021 Gaynor made several more tweets on the same subject, three of which qualify with ratios of 63.33 (190-3), 6.93 (111-16) and 17.5 (175-10).  He made further tweets connecting the issue to that of abortion, one of which now has a ratio of 41.25 (165-4).

Because of the extremity of Gaynor's views, their potential to flood the list, his relatively minor status and some potential for him to be banned from Twitter (here's hoping) I feel I should treat him separately for the time being.

Gaynor is best known for ultimately losing an unfair dismissal case against the Australian Defence Force.  He was a Katters Australian Party Senate candidate in 2013 but was disendorsed, and he later contested the Queensland Senate as lead candidate for the far-right Australian Liberty Alliance in 2016.  (It polled just over 1%).  

Ratioed Tweets Not By Bernard Gaynor

1. David Van 54.33

This is an example of what might be called a "drive-by ratio" - Van's tweet was ratioed not so much for its content as because around the same time Senator Van was accused of making "dog noises" at Senator Lambie (which he denies though he admits to interjecting.)  Many of the responses said "Woof".

2. Victorian Landlords 46.5

3. Alan Tudge 40.38 (replies disabled, QT/RT method)

4. Alan Tudge 35.75 (replies disabled, QT/RT method)

A typo here or was it? "schmo" is slang for an average nondescript person or also a jerk or stupid person.

5.  Bevan Shields 29.04

Narrator: it wasn't a strike.

6. Tim Smith 28.42

7. Mitch Fifield 27.83

8. Clark Cooley 27.16
9. Paul Fletcher 27.12

10. Fiona Martin 26.01

Outside the top ten

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

Sarah Henderson 23.92 (replies disabled, QT/RT method)

World Wide Speakers Group 23.78

Paul Fletcher 23.07


Jacquelin Magnay (2023) 22.83

Lanai Scarr 21.75

Simon Birmingham 20.85

Among other obvious ratio bait aspects of this tweet, the three clippings at the bottom are all from versions of the same syndicated article (two of them from the same version.)

Sarah Henderson 20.65

Tim Wilson 20.37

Angus Taylor 19.97

Alexander Downer 19.83

Caleb Bond 19.71

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

Tim Wilson 19.00

Tim Wilson 18.84

Mary Wooldridge 18.52

Michael Sukkar 17.85

Tim Wilson 17.57

ABC Insiders feat Dan Tehan (2024) 17.63

Sarina Russo 17.13

(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 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.

In September 2021 I discovered Russo had blocked me - presumably for my coverage of her ratioed tweet as I have had no other interaction with her,)

Josephine Cashman 17.11

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.

Dan Tehan 17.08

Sarah Henderson 16.82

Alexander Downer 16.97

Tim Wilson 16.21

Sam Clench 15.81

Tim Wilson 15.49

Paul Fletcher 15.54

Amanda Vanstone (2023) 15.47

Jason Falinski (19 Jan 2022) 15.31

Michael Sukkar 15.29

Michael Rowland feat. Sussan Ley (2023) 15.26

Sussan Ley 15.25

Griffith isn't her electorate.

Melissa Price 15.24

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

Michael Sukkar 15.22

Karen Andrews 15.19


Lyle Shelton 14.78

Stuart Robert 14.85


Melissa Price 14.57

Linda Reynolds 14.51

Anne Ru
ston 13.91

ABC QandA featuring Alexander Downer 13.91

Tim Wilson 13.8

Paul Fletcher (2023) 13.77
Jason Falinski (2023) 13.76

Peter Dutton 13.74

ABC Insiders featuring Jane Hume 13.68

The ratio was prophetic - the interview featured a significant gaffe where Hume said 
"We don’t have policies, we're in opposition"

Keith Pitt 13.63

ABC QandA featuring Matt Canavan 13.59

Tim Wilson 13.25

Adam Creighton 13.19

This tweet was a self-reply to a now deleted (and also heavily ratioed) tweet in which Creighton falsely claimed that it was normal to show a driver's licence in Australia when voting, this being an attempt to argue that Georgia's voter suppression laws were not suppressive.

Michael Sukkar 13.18 (2022)

Dan Tehan (2022) 13.17

Josh Frydenberg 13.15

Stuart Robert 13.11

ABC News feat Bridget Mackenzie (2023) 12.96

David Crowe (29 Nov 2021) 12.87

The contradictory descriptions in the article and the lack of precise question wordings made it impossible to determine what voters did back, though that's probably not why this one was ratioed. 

Tim Wilson (2024) 12.85

Dan Tehan 12.8

Tim Wilson 12.75

Tim Wilson 12.6

Paul Fletcher 12.38

ABC Insiders featuring Angus Taylor (2024) 12.12

Simon Birmingham 11.81

Tim Wilson 11.64

ABC Insiders featuring Angus Taylor 11.60 (approx)

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).

Joanne Ryan 11.58

The largest ratio for a Labor MP that I have seen, overtaking Fitzgibbon.

Tim Wilson 11.55

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.  

Tim Wilson 11.40

Michael Sukkar 11.39

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 11.23

Christian Porter 10.89

This tweet does not seem to have been heavily ratioed at the time, but collected replies later, starting from the Four Corners "Canberra Bubble" accusations (which Porter denies).

Phil Coorey 11.14

Tim Wilson 10.79

Tim Wilson 10.72

Tim Wilson 10.58

Tim Smith (2020) 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!)

Chris Uhlmann 10.44

ABC Insiders featuring Angus Taylor 10.36

Tim Wilson 10.31

ABC QandA featuring Eric Abetz (2022) 10.25

Alexander Downer 10.21

ABC Insiders 10.19

ABC feat Chris Merritt (2023) 10.17

Included under "axe QandA rule".

David Van 10.15

Tim Wilson 10.14

Tim Wilson (3 Feb 2021) 10.07

This was the third tweet in a hat trick of tweets to make my list by Wilson on the same day, an unprecedented achievement.  

Tim Wilson 10.04

=====Selected tweets between 5 and 10=====

As of 1/1/2022 tweets are only added to this section if of unusual interest.


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 featuring Malcolm Roberts 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.

Josh Frydenberg 9.41

Australian Financial Review 9.38

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

Tim Wilson (6 Feb 2021) 9.33

Tim Wilson (2020) 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

David Littleproud 8.08

Alex Hawke 8.05

Christian Porter 7.79

Sky News featuring Angus Taylor 7.77

Tim Wilson (2021) 7.57

Tim Wilson 7.43

Australian Republican Movement 7.40

Malcolm Turnbull (3 Apr 2020) 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

Katie Allen (2021) 7.22

Angus Taylor 7.19

Jason Falinski 7.11

Institute of Public Affairs 7.08

Tim Wilson (3 Feb 2021) 6.98

ABC News 6.96

Nobody likes false equivalence.

Angus Taylor 6.92

Alexander Downer 6.90

Sydney Morning Herald 6.85

Nine News Australia 6.83

A richly deserved ratio as this was a nonsense article based on an unscaled "reader poll" of a small number of Nine viewers, which they then passed off as representative of "voters".

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

Gay Alcorn 6.50

The response to this article and accompanying tweet was so furious it led to Alcorn announcing she was quitting Twitter, later saying there had been death threats against the reporter.  

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

Tim Wilson (3 Feb 2021) 5.87

Josh Frydenberg 5.86

David Van 5.82

Business Council of Australia 5.72

Andrew Leigh (2023) 5.71

Young Liberals 5.71 (8 Aug 2021)

Angus Taylor 5.69

Hollie Hughes 5.54

Liberal National Party 5.44

Jason Falinski 5.33

Nicole Chettle (ABC) 5.30

Hamish Macdonald for featuring David Leyonhjelm 5.21

Bev McArthur 5.18

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.

Scott Morrison 5.08

This harmless tweet on water safety made the list by being ratioed by Chinese accounts posting copies of a Chinese propaganda graphic by Wuheqilin attacking Morrison over Australian war crimes in Afghanistan.  

1 comment:

  1. Jaala's tweet here might be qualifying for something:


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