MPs, Twitter & the EU referendum campaign

Ward, SJ, Mcloughlin, L, Gibson, R and Southern, R 2016, MPs, Twitter & the EU referendum campaign , in: Elections Parties and Opinion Polls Annual Conference, 9-11 September 2016, University of Kent, UK.

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In the UK, as in many democracies there has been a rapid rise of MPs using Twitter over the past six years. From being a relative novelty in 2010, over one parliamentary cycle, the technology had been normalized by 2015 with 576 MPs having Twitter accounts (McLoughlin, 2016, June 20). Research in this area has tended to focus on the use of technology for representative and participatory purposes, political marketing, or more broadly on changes in style of representative democracy (Jackson & Lilleker, 2011; Kruikmeier, 2014; Margolis and Moreno-Riano, 2013). The focus of this paper, however, is more on the communicative networks being fostered by social media and the tone of that communication. In particular, we are interested in examining how far social media are challenging both inter and intra party relationships. Whilst there has been much popular comment on the disruptive nature of technologies, much of the existing empirical research suggests a more conservative approach in the political/parliamentary sphere (ref). Some studies suggest far from challenging political representatives’ behaviour or power structures and elites within parties – social media has hardened divides both between and within parties (refs). Moreover, far from democratizing politics and enhancing democratic discourse as enthusiasts hoped, social media has furthered coarsened the nature of public debate (refs).

The research here examines some these broad questions within the more specific context of MPs contribution to the EU referendum debate via Twitter. The referendum arguably offered rare opportunities for cross party linkages, MPs to publically explain their own individual (as opposed to a party), position on Britain’s relationship with the EU stance as well as a chance for a sustained national discussion/debate focused around a single issue.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Schools: Schools > School of Arts & Media > Arts, Media and Communication Research Centre
Journal or Publication Title: Proceedings, Elections, Public Opinion and Parties (EPOP) Annual Conference 2016
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Depositing User: SJ Ward
Date Deposited: 21 May 2018 15:26
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2022 18:48

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