How Ontario politics are playing out on Twitter

How Ontario politics are playing out on Twitter

Published May 7, 2014

Twitter has become the go-to source for real-time information about the evolution of election campaigns. But the perspective that individual users glean from Twitter depends on whom they follow.

To get a better sense of how influence is distributed across the Twitterverse the team at Vox Pop Labs captured Tweets over the past six months from #ONpoli, the most widely used hashtag in Ontario politics. The result is a collection of tens of thousands of tweets and retweets made by thousands of Ontarians.

“We visualised these data to reveal the structure of the Ontario political Twitterverse. The visualisation is based on a network algorithm that places users closer to those whom they retweet,” said Gregory Eady, Senior Data Scientist for Vox Pop Labs. “It provides a bird’s eye view of how Ontario politics is playing out on Twitter.”

Ontario 2014 Twitter influence map

Click on the image to view in high resolution (File size: 14MB).

Retweets are not endorsements?

The patterns that emerge in the network diagram are immediately apparent as they are broadly consistent with those of the Ontario political landscape. Twitter users appear to divide along ideological and party lines. The Progressive Conservatives and their leader, Tim Hudak, reside in the politically conservative cluster on the left (depicted in purple); their NDP and Liberal counterparts are noticeably close to one another in the centre (depicted in light blue).

Despite the notable proximity of the NDP and Liberals, polarization is common to Twitter’s political networks. Network researchers at Indiana University who used Twitter data from the 2010 US congressional elections similarly found that retweet networks had a clearly partisan flavour. Mention networks – the network of Tweets directed toward specific users – on the other hand, were much less partisan. In essence, retweets are primarily endorsements but Twitter conversations cross ideological and party lines.

Twitter Political Advocacy Campaigns

What makes the Ontario politics visualisation of Twitter unique is the small but vocal group of users linked to a political advocacy group in the bottom right corner of the graphic. The interest group – Conceivable Dreams – advocates for the Ontario government to support in-vitro fertilization treatments for couples with difficulty conceiving children. The issue is a contentious one among the province’s political parties. Supporters’ distance from the main group indicates that they were not retweeted heavily by #onpoli proper, but shows their resonance among a small cluster of users.

Twitter Throughout the Election Campaign

How will the Ontario Twitter landscape change throughout the election? As Vox Pop Lab’s Twitter visualizations at the beginning and end of the recent Quebec election show, retweet patterns rapidly shift to emphasise political parties and politicians over unaffiliated Twitter users. Despite their election loss to the Liberal Party in Quebec, the Parti Québécois was by far the most retweeted user throughout the campaign. What this means for Ontario’s political parties is not yet clear.

Ontario’s top 100 political Tweeters

1. Paul Stewart (@PaulStewartII)
2. Robert Benzie (@robertbenzie)
3. Lorrie Goldstein (@sunlorrie)
4. Conceivable Dreams (@OHIP4IVF)
5. Price-Anderson Act (@ThatArcher)
6. Ursus Maritimus (@CAGWSkeptic)
7. The Anti Harper (@the_anti_harper)
8. Steve Paikin (@spaikin)
9. paula schuck (@inkscrblr)
10. Sun News Network (@SunNewsNetwork)
11. Angela M. Murphy (@angelainTO)
12. SharkDancing (@SharkDancing)
13. Adrian Morrow (@AdrianMorrow)
14. Ontario PC (@OntarioPCParty)
15. Warren Kinsella (@kinsellawarren)
16. Cheri DiNovo (@CheriDiNovo)
17. Amy MacPherson (@MsAmyMacPherson)
18. Joe Watson (@JoeWatson7199)
19. Rob Ferguson (@robferguson1)
20. Carolyn Hudson (@cmusician)
21. Ashley Csanady (@AshleyCsanady)
22. Katie Franzios (@KatieFranzios)
23. Little Miss Kate (@LilMissKateCo)
24. Andrew Langille (@YouthAndWork)
25. Genevieve Tomney (@genevievetomney)
26. Kristen (@My3LilKittens)
27. Randy Cross (@haselcheck)
28. Rick Barnes (@queerthoughts)
29. TorontoStar (@TorontoStar)
30. Mayor Crime Lord (@TOMayorFrod)
31. LinkedMoms (@LinkedMoms)
32. Keith Leslie (@CPnewsboy)
33. Michael Marsh (@etenebrislux)
34. Ken Gray (@KenGray)
35. Kathleen Wynne (@Kathleen_Wynne)
36. RegimeChangeVictoria (@SteveFilipovic)
37. SurlyOldCoot (@surlyoldcoot)
38. John Lorinc (@JohnLorinc)
39. Joanne BlueLikeYou (@JoanneBLY)
40. Andrew Reeves (@reevesreport)
41. ejb (@ejb__)
42. Toronto Sun (@TheTorontoSun)
43. J.R. from Canada (@knoxster69)
44. Josh Matlow (@JoshMatlow)
45. J4PSWs (@J4PSWs)
46. Paul Murphy (@fat411)
47. Clark Savolaine (@ClarkSavolaine)
48. Todd Banks (@Banks_Todd)
49. OPSEU (@OPSEU)
50. Ontario NDP (@OntarioNDP)
51. Paul Beckwith (@PaulHBeckwith)
52. Andrea Horwath (@andreahorwath)
53. Paul Bliss (@blissblogs)
54. Alan Carter (@ACarterglobal)
55. Ryan Simper (@RDSimper)
56. Tim Hudak (@timhudak)
57. BC (@bconnolly00)
58. Danno (@___Danno)
59. Sid Ryan (@SidRyan_OFL)
60. Graham Chivers (@deepgreendesign)
61. Bill Oates (@wjoates)
62. Karen Howlett (@kahowlett)
63. RandallDenley (@Randall_Denley)
64. Margarita Ibbott (@DownshiftingPRO)
65. Andrew Kimber (@AndrewKimber)
66. rjbrennan (@rjbrennan)
67. Cheryl Fullerton (@CherylFull)
68. Pete Quily (@pqpolitics)
69. Joseph Uranowski (@Uranowski)
70. Senator Harper (@goingprorogue)
71. Sandra David (@sandour)
72. Twobit Guy (@Twobit_Guy)
73. OntarioLiberal Party (@OntLiberal)
74. trapdinawrpool (@trapdinawrpool)
75. CTV Toronto (@CTVToronto)
76. Ross (@Haggisman57)
77. Maria Babbage (@mariababbage)
78. Press Office (@LibPressSec)
79. Ev Delen (@evdelen)
80. Dave Scrivener (@davescrivener)
81. Marc Coward (@YYZMarc)
82. Chris Cowley (@oectagovernor)
83. Antonella Artuso (@suntooz)
84. Trish Hennessy (@trishhennessy)
85. Joe Fantauzzi (@jjfantauzzi)
86. Loonie Politics (@LooniePolitics)
87. K McCallum (@thenthereskeith)
88. DBECanada (@DBECanada)
89. Darth Shwa (@Blaiserboy)
90. Elliott Ross (@ElliottRoss6)
91. Danielle Xavier (@TheXaviers)
92. Jeffrey Lowes (@jeffreylowes)
93. Paul Smith (@PaulSmithTO)
94. Darrel Jorstad (@darreljorstad)
95. PAUL DINNAGE (@PAULDINNAGE)
96. Jay (@CharleyCanucky)
97. Zita Astravas (@ZitaAstravas)
98. Michael Shapcott (@michaelshapcott)
99. JohnnyCanuck (@Johny_Canuck)
100. G (@VancouverBlues)

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