Membership of political parties has been falling since the 1950s – and now sits at an historic low: Labour and Conservatives have little more than 300,000 members between them. But the apathy toward the political party system should not be mistaken for a lack of interest in politics more generally. Many people are using social media to get more actively involved in politics in new and interesting ways.
In our latest CASM briefing paper – Virtually Members, which is out tomorrow – we examine the social media support of the main three parties, and consider the extent to which Facebook and Twitter affiliation might replace the formal party membership model. We’ve number-crunched ‘Followers’ and ‘Likes’, and the results might surprise you.
Part of the work involved looking at the ‘loyalty’ of Twitter followers toward the MPs they follow. We did this by calculating how many followers of, say, Conservative MPs, also followed MPs from a different party, and how many only follow MPs from one party (excluding the leaders of each party in order to get a more grassroots party sample).
Precise results will be available tomorrow, but as illustrated from the graphic, followers are on the whole quite loyal – with the overwhelming majority (between 60 and 70 per cent) of Labour and Conservative followers sticking to their party. Only a very small cluster, that central interlinked node in the middle, follow at least one MP from all three. The Liberal Democrats, however, are a more unfaithful (or perhaps curious) bunch – as over half of their followers are also following MPs from one of the other parties.
UPDATE: Full analysis and data is available by downloading the Virtually Members CASM paper here.