Update: 77% of Australian federal parliamentarians are now on social media

I’ve updated my listing of Australian federal parliamentarians on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social networks, and have found that 77% of them now have a social media presence – up from 72% in June 2012.

What I’d like to talk about today are some of the interesting breakdowns in the figures.

There’s a substantial divide between Senators and members of the House of Representatives, with MPs far more likely to use social media channels than Senators – particularly Facebook, where there is a 30% difference (39.47% of Senators compared to 69.33% of Reps).

This makes sense, given that MPs represent an electorate and have significant needs to connect with their constituents, whereas Senators, who represent states, generally do not campaign in a similar way.

Social network Senate House of Representatives
Facebook 39.47% 69.33%
Twitter 59.21% 68.67%

Unlike the broader Australian population, Twitter is the network of choice for parliamentarians – perhaps because it requires substantially less curation and moderation than Facebook.

Social network Online Australians Federal parliamentarians
Facebook 98% 59.29%
Twitter 14% 65.49%

Liberal and Labor members are both reasonably likely to use social media, with the Liberals ahead of Labor on 79.57% compared to 73.53%.

The Greens are the highest users of social media, with 100% of their federal parliamentarians using some form of social network. This offers their party opportunities to amplify their messages in ways difficult for smaller parties to do using traditional media.

The Nationals, in contrast, only have 69.23% of their parliamentarians using social media. While this may reflect the demographic composition of their electorates, which are more remote and statistically less likely to use online channels, in my view they are missing opportunities to connect to constituents in their larger and more difficult to travel electorates.

75% of the independents (including the DLP and Katter’s party) are using social media (with Tony Windsor the lone hold-out). Again, much the same reasons as for the Nationals may apply, and my views are the same.

Social network Liberals Labor Greens Nationals Independents
Any network 79.57% 73.53% 100.00% 69.23% 75.00%
Facebook 51.61% 46.08% 60.00% 23.08% 25.00%
Twitter 54.84% 49.02% 60.00% 38.46% 25.00%

(Note that as my spreadsheet is broader than Facebook and Twitter the percentages above for these networks are a little lower than the total.)

Asides from the party and house differences, there’s a small, but statistically significant male/female divide, with female parliamentarians more likely to be socially engaged online than males. Given that statistically more women use Facebook and Twitter in Australia than men, this is reflective of the general population.

Social network Male parliamentarians Female parliamentarians
Facebook 57.76% 63.08%
Twitter 63.35% 70.77%

Even more notable is the age breakdown. The older the parliamentarian, the much less likely they are to use social networks.

Birth years Any social network By the numbers
1940-49 64.71% 11 of 17 parliamentarians
1950-59 61.76% 42 of 68 parliamentarians
1960-69 81.97% 50 of 61 parliamentarians
1970+ 100.00% 32 of 32 parliamentarians

This becomes telling when considering that older parliamentarians are far more likely to hold Ministerial or other senior posts, and therefore be decision-makers in which channels they are comfortable for their departments to use.

There’s clearly some way to go before all parliamentarians are using social networks to connect with constituents. However there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel, with almost 80% of parliamentarians now using social networks.

I expect that by this time next year, around the time of the next federal election this will jump at least another 10%, and by the end of 2014 all Australian federal parliamentarians will be using social networks, in some way, to engage their constituents.

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