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Updated: 9 min 25 sec ago

Queensland election: One Nation dominates Twitter debate in the final weeks

Fri, 24/11/2017 - 12:45

As Queensland approaches its election day on Saturday, the social media campaign for votes continues alongside – and in combination with – the candidates’ doorknocking efforts and mainstream media advertising. But over the final two weeks, the focus of that campaign has gradually shifted.

First, as I reported a fortnight ago, Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s plan to veto a potential $1b loan to the Adani mine project resulted in a considerable drop in Adani-related tweets directed at Queensland candidates, and that pattern has held through subsequent weeks. Labor has not entirely neutralised the Adani controversy, but the mine project is no longer the major talking point of the Twitter campaign.

By contrast, the most significant emerging theme of these past two weeks has been the role that Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party might play in the new parliament. We saw some of this in our previous analysis, in response to the LNP’s decision to direct preferences to One Nation over Labor in a majority of Queensland seats; that particular discussion has now shifted to a much broader debate about the very real prospect that One Nation may hold the balance of power after the election.

Our dataset captures the tweets posted by and directed at Queensland election candidates. Of those tweets where the presence of specific keywords indicates a major topic, some 51% addressed the Adani mine or One Nation, but the emphasis has now swung considerably towards the latter. This was sparked in part by the LNP’s preference announcement, with preferences briefly becoming a distinct major topic in their own right.

Labor has been quick to exploit this arrangement, in well-shared posts from the central party account, though recent footage of its own controversial MP Joanne Miller hugging with Pauline Hanson on the campaign trail might have blunted this message somewhat.

There you have it. The LNP-One Nation preference deal has now been confirmed.

You can’t have @TimNichollsMP & the LNP without Hanson’s One Nation. And you can’t have Hanson’s One Nation without Tim Nicholls & the LNP. #qldpol

— Queensland Labor (@QLDLabor) 11 November 2017

One Nation also featured heavily in another major topic of the second half of the campaign: schools. While Labor’s pledge to establish several new schools received only moderate attention, Queensland One Nation leader Steve Dickson’s bizarre comments about the ‘safe schools’ anti-bullying programme was met with widespread condemnation. A tweet criticising Dickson’s subsequent apology is now the second most retweeted post of the entire campaign, in fact:

So @SteveDicksonMP apologised “if the specific words I used offended anyone”. Not for the fact he wrongly accused teachers of teaching kids how to strap on dildos and masturbate. What a douchebag.

— Dee Madigan (@deemadigan) 13 November 2017

Somewhat more surprisingly, the impact of Uber and similar ridesharing services on the Queensland taxi industry has also been a minor theme throughout the campaign. This was aided by some orchestrated activity by taxi drivers, and supported by KAP candidate Robbie Katter, who has championed their cause in several campaign events. Meanwhile, transport also figured in the Premier’s commitment to fixing the issues with troubled new Queensland Rail rolling stock in Maryborough, which generated a brief flurry of support as well as criticism.

These topical changes have affected the patterns of engagement with the candidates on Twitter. In total, Labor candidates still continue to be @mentioned more frequently than their LNP counterparts – but over the past two weeks, that gap has closed slightly: as attention has shifted from Adani to One Nation, so have Twitter users moved to asking more questions of LNP and One Nation rather than Labor politicians. Retweets, however, continue to favour Labor by a considerable margin: its candidates have received more than four times as many retweets as all other party candidates put together.

A network visualisation of these engagement patterns (combining both @mentions and retweets over the course of the entire campaign) demonstrates the state of play at this late stage of the election campaign. Labor commands the largest engagement network, at the centre of the graph. Discussions about Adani have been prominent, and form a distinct cluster of debate that is most closely interconnected with the Labor and Greens networks.

Meanwhile, LNP and One Nation candidates are mentioned frequently alongside one another, often in tweets asking about their preference arrangements or their willingness to work together in the absence of an outright majority for either major party. This association is so strong, in fact, that our visualisation algorithm treats both groups as part of the same discussion cluster. Slightly to the side of this sits the Uber debate, which therefore appears to be more closely associated with – and perhaps supported by – LNP candidates than their Labor counterparts.

The picture that emerges here is one which points to the strengths and weaknesses of both sides of politics. For Labor, its troubled path to a firmer stance on the Adani mine may remain in environmentally conscious voters’ minds even if the online discussion has died down somewhat; for the LNP, the emerging view that its best path to government is through an arrangement with One Nation will similarly dent the electorate’s enthusiasm for a change of government. That Labor commands by far the majority of retweets for its messages may give it hope, though – at least in urban electorates, where Twitter is likely to have its greatest footprint.

ATNIX: Australian Twitter News Index, September/October 2017

Tue, 21/11/2017 - 14:18

Twitter news sharing patterns for Australian news sites in recent months point to the considerable public attention directed at a handful of key issues.

The September/October period is once again notable for a number of major ABC News stories that attracted attention on Twitter well above the long-term average. The first of these, trending from 30 September onwards, remains relevant to the current Queensland election campaign: the ABC’s Four Corners investigation into Indian fossil fuels giant Adani resulted in a very strong Twitter response.

As is typical for such long-form investigative reporting, ABC News pushed out a number of news articles relating to the story, many of which received a strong response. From Saturday 30 September to Tuesday 3 October,  Four Corners’ trailer alone (since removed from the ABC News site) was shared in some 7,300 tweets; the full video of the report received another 3,700 shares.

Additional spin-off articles on Adani’s ties to overseas tax havens and on a former Indian minister’s warnings about Adani received 3,300 and 2,100 shares, respectively, while even the main Four Corners homepage on the ABC site was shared in 2,200 tweets over these four days. During this time, these five links were the most shared ABC News URLs by a substantial margin; the first non-Adani story received only some 600 shares.

For such a comparatively old-fashioned news format as Four Corners, with its long-form video reports, this is a major achievement in the current news environment. The nearly 21,000 tweets which shared these five URLs over the entirety of September and October, as well as further sharing on Facebook and through other channels, mean that the Adani controversy has remained central to public debate, especially in Queensland. The events of the first weeks of the Queensland state election campaign also demonstrate the challenge that the Adani project continues to represent for both major parties.

Over these two months, ABC News’ Adani coverage is eclipsed only by one other major story: its report that Hillary Clinton blames Julian Assange for his part in Donald Trump’s election win receives some 7,100 shares on 16 October and nearly 11,000 shares over the entire period, making it the single most shared ABC News article during September and October.

Contrary to the Adani coverage, which is likely to have found a predominantly domestic audience, here a further international distribution (which is common for many Assange and WikiLeaks stories) is no doubt at least partly responsible for the widespread sharing of this piece.

Meanwhile, attention to Sydney Morning Herald content follows business-as-usual patterns over the same period. Here, day-to-day coverage of federal politics remains most prominent: the SMH’s leading articles for September and October report that federal Liberal MP Stuart Robert may have been elected improperly (2,400 shares); that the National Party has voted to remove subsidies for renewables (1,900 shares); and that coal is unpopular even in electorates with coal-fired power stations (1,900 shares).

These trending stories document the confluence of several major issues and crises in current domestic and international news, from Queensland’s Adani controversy  through the ongoing dual citizenship saga to the investigations into the Trump White House and its ties to Russia. On Twitter and elsewhere, news is booming – even if many commercial news outlets are still struggling to make ends meet.