The next paper in our AoIR 2013 panel is by Julia Neubarth and Christian Nuernbergk, covering the German federal election two days after the Australian one. The Net is playing an increasingly important role in political communication in Germany, but there is still very little active participation by citizens, and active participants are mainly male, younger, and left-wing. Politicians are getting more active - some 60% of federal parliamentarians are on Twitter, although Chancellor Merkel still isn't.
German politicians on Twitter will find a mixed audience - use in the country is growing, but still limited; however, active participants are especially interesting as they represent journalists and other media personnel as well as especially politically interested users.
Looking at a period some five months out from the election, the study found some 208 active politician accounts, posting some 21 tweets per week per person on average. The Greens were the most active party. In the week preceding the election, 223 members posted some 35 tweets per person on average. Again the Greens were most active, while the conservative CDU and the social democrat SPD were also very active. Neoliberal FDP and leftist Linke were far less active.
But the means also hide the fact that a small number of highly active politicians posted a substantial component of the total tweet volume. Such politicians are usually simple members, rather than leading politicians.
Most of the tweets cover publicly relevant rather than personal topics, and reference specific policy areas. Economic policy is a leading topic, though Greens and SPD also focus strongly on youth and social policy. Events promotion and dialogue with citizens are especially important; the latter not for the FDP, however, which lost all of its seats in the election.
51% of all tweets by the politicians are @mentions - mainly of other political actors (49%) and ordinary people (35%). The network of @mentions grew more connected in the week before the election. Negatively toned @mentions come mainly from a handful of "troublemaker" politicians who take an especially confrontational stance.
Twitter is mainly used for information and interaction, then, but specific uses also differ between the parties. Politicians appear largely to talk amongst themselves, rather than with citizens, and there are clear changes to activity patterns as the election approaches.