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Virtually members: the Facebook and Twitter followers of UK political parties

16 Apr 2013
Description

Various measures of offline political activism appear to be falling, but this paper shows that young people in particular remain interested in politics, and use social media to stay politically engaged.

This paper analyses political support on social media, and finds that each of the main political parties now have significantly more Twitter followers than they do formal party members. It argues that this virtual support is part of a wider transformation of what it means to belong to a party. We are moving from a formal hierarchical model to more conditional support.

Evidence of tribal supporters of social media - people who only follow MPs of a single party - creates opportunities for greater political activism through online engagement. This has already proved successful in populist groups across Europe including, most notably, Beppe Grillo’s Movimento 5 Stelle in Italy, which grew rapidly to make a significant political and social impact.

Authored by Jamie Bartlett, Sid Bennett, Rutger Birnie and Simon Wibberley.

Publication Details
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2013
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