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Analysis of MEPs and their Twitter usage

Actualité 22.09.2010

Twitter is a new tool for political staff to communicate what they are doing with citizens. Some have discovered the tool through electoral campaigns and others have come to use it of their own accord. Touteleurope.eu has looked into the percentage of MEPs per country who use Twitter.

The presence of MEPs on Twitter is about more than opening an account. Different elements must be taken into account to assess their Twitter activity:
-    How often messages are published (the tweets)
-    The rate of interaction with other people on the social network whether by responding (using @accountname in the body of the responding message) or by relaying third-party information (“retweet” or RT)
-    The type of information presented, namely the type of messages that are sent. It may be a simple communication detailing their blog posts, agenda or press release or, on the other hand, it may be a more personal comment or comment on current affairs. The latter is the approach common among MEPs who are more active on Twitter.
-    The number of ‘followers’ that the MEP’s account has is a good indication of how well known and how well used the politician’s Twitter account is.

France has the most MEPs with Twitter accounts

France has 34 MEPs using Twitter – the highest number of MEPs present on Twitter of all European countries. However, this victory must be tempered by the fact that France is one of the countries with the most MEPs per country and thus, mathematically, has a greater chance of having most MEPs on Twitter. Germany has 31 MEPs present on Twitter but this amounts to just 31% of their total number of MEPs.

Of 72 French MEPs in total, 34 have Twitter accounts so 47% of them are present on the social network giving France a ranking of 5th place. This trend may develop as it becomes more common for politicians to be present on the social network. MEPs such as Sandrine Bélier, Damien Abad, Philippe Juvin, Yves Jadot, Corinne Lepage, Pascale Gruny and José Bové can often be seen on the Touteleurope widget “MEPs on Twitter”. This widget brings together all the tweets from French MEPs and newcomers such as Sylvie Guillaume, Gaston Franco and Sophie Auconie appear regularly.

However, several MEPs stop using their account once the campaign is over or use it mainly to comment on national affairs. What’s more, many still use Twitter in the same way as traditional communication tools but it is slowly beginning to be used to its full potential.

Ireland wins for quantity and the Netherlands wins for quality

When it comes to Twitter, Europe is as diverse as ever. While some countries have really embraced Twitter, others have apparently no need for it. Malta is a case in point with none of its MEPs using the social network. Ireland on the other hand is champion of Europe with 67% (8/12) of its MEPs using Twitter.
The European average is 31% with 227 MEPs of 736 present on the network. 13 countries rate higher than the European average but only three pass the 50% mark – Ireland, the Netherlands (64%) and Sweden in third place with 56% of its MEPs having an account. One of the most followed MEPs is Sophie In’t Veld from the Netherlands who has 6428 followers.

Often quantity does not mean quality and regarding quality, it is Holland that dominates. Most Dutch MEPs are very heavily present on Twitter. They respond to citizens, regularly retweet and, notably, speak of Europe in the majority of their tweets. It has a positive ripple effect as having a Twitter account has now become standard for political communication in Holland.

The most followed MEP is Luigi de Magistris from Italy who has almost 8,000 followers. However, he does not seem to be an example to his Italian colleagues as only 26% of them have Twitter accounts.

Some countries have a large number of MEPs but few of them are present on Twitter. Spain and Poland, each with 50 MEPs, are among the lowest ranking with 12% and 16% respectively of their MEPs present on Twitter.

Statistics by country and by group – The S&D group slightly in the lead
Of 736 MEPs in the European Parliament, 216 have a Twitter account which equals 29.5% of MEPs present on the social network. The breakdown shows that distribution is not equal across Member States.

With regard to political groups, S&D MEPs are most present with 67 accounts (i.e. 36.4% of its members). 60 EPP members have accounts (22.6%), 32 Greens (58%), 29 ALDE members (34.5%), 11 ECR members (20%), 7 non-attached (26.9%), 6 GUE members (17%) and 4 EFD members (11.4%).
From this, we see that the Greens, with 58% of their MEPs on Twitter, make most use of the social network to assert their position. The ‘big’ parties use it less but, in general, have more than 30% of members using it, with the exception of the right-leaning EPP. Even taking into account the fact that during the 2009 elections that the EPP lost a part of its members to the newly founded ECR, the total on Twitter is below 25%.

It is noteworthy that in examining political groups and countries, we see an under-use of Twitter among states that joined in 2004 and 2007. The Twitter phenomenon has not yet taken root in the political life of these countries. While use of Facebook has been increasing rapidly, particularly during national elections, the impact of Twitter has not yet been judged great enough for politicians to devote a part of their communication to it. The Baltic countries are the exception to prove the rule with Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia having between 33% and 42% of their MEPs present on Twitter which is higher than the European average.


French MEPs and Twitter

French MEPs have a higher than average presence on Twitter. 34 of the 72 MEPs have an account which represents 47% of them. France ranks in sixth place. The presence of French MEPs increased after the 2010 regional elections. French media are now picking up politicians’ tweets as a source of information. The increase in accounts opened by prominent politicians and the resulting media exposure has convinced MEPs to open accounts.

France has the highest number of MEPs on Twitter. This must however be put in context as they have the second highest number of MEPs in total. Thus it is logical that numerically there are a lot of accounts. Nonetheless, the result is much better than Germany which only has 31% of its MEPs on Twitter. France is the most present on Twitter among the big countries, far ahead of Germany, the United Kingdom (38%), Italy (26%), Poland (16%) and Spain (12%).
It is becoming more and more common for politicians to be present on the network. MEPs such as Sandrine Bélier, Damien Abad, Philippe Juvin, Yves Jadot, Corinne Lepage, Pascale Gruny and José Bové appear regularly in Touteleurope.eu’s widget “MEPs on Twitter”. This widget brings together all the tweets from French MEPs and newcomers such as Sylvie Guillaume, Gaston Franco and Sophie Auconie appear regularly.

Several French MEPs do not use their account once the campaign finishes or only use it to comment on national affairs. What’s more, many still use Twitter in the same way as traditional communication tools but it is slowly beginning to be used to its full potential.

Number of MEPs on Twitter: 34/72 or 47%
Accounts actually in use: 20 (59%)


German MEPs and Twitter

Germany has a high number of MEPs on Twitter. This is in part due to the fact that it is by far the country with the greatest total number of MEPs so it is no surprise that it ranks highly in numerical terms. However, if we consider the number of accounts with regard to the number of MEPs elected, Germany is only about average in Europe.

In their use of Twitter, few accounts created for the 2009 European elections were abandoned after the event. 68% of them are still active although sometimes irregularly. In their use, it is noteworthy that there is little interactivity as the majority of MEPs mainly use the network to publish information directly related to their work.

Number of MEPs on Twitter: 31/99 or 31%
Accounts actually in use: 21 (68%)


Irish MEPs and Twitter

Ireland has only a few MEPs on Twitter (just eight) but it ranks in first place in proportional terms. 67% of Ireland’s MEPs have a Twitter account.

62.5% of these accounts are still in use having been set up during the European elections. However the use made by MEPs of the network is light on interaction and heavy on traditional press releases etc. Only MEP Joe Higgins (GUE) makes serious use of it although he uses it more for publishing his blog posts and articles that interest him rather than as a platform for interacting with citizens. For Higgins, it is a way to make known his position on issues allowing him to bypass traditional media which tends not to broadcast statements from such a small party.

Number of MEPs on Twitter: 8/12 or 67%
Accounts actually in use: 5 (62.5%)


Dutch MEPs on Twitter


It could be said that the Dutch MEPs are the Twitter champions of Europe. They rank fourth in terms of the number of MEPs on the network and have the second highest rate of presence with 64%. Of particular note is the fact that 93% of their accounts are still active.

Furthermore, they have a much more interesting relationship with Twitter than the majority of their European colleagues. Most of them tweet on European issues, question each other, respond to citizens, retweet articles etc. An example worth following perhaps.

Number of MEPs on Twitter: 16/25 or 64%
Accounts actually in use: 15 (93%)


Polish MEPs on Twitter

Poland is, in general, a country where the Twitter phenomenon has not yet taken root at political level. This explains why only seven MEPs have opened a Twitter account. In September 2010, only three accounts were being regularly updated.

The most active Polish MEPs have published less than 260 tweets. Unlike the Netherlands, there is no ripple effect among the different MEPs. Also, there are few links between Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Number of MEPs on Twitter: 8/50 or 16%
Accounts actually in use: 4 (50%)


Romanian MEPs on Twitter

Romania is not at the cutting edge in terms of politicians using Twitter. With 33 MEPs in total, Romanian representatives have opened only five accounts – mainly during the European elections. Unfortunately, this usage has petered out. Renate Weber (ALDE) is the exception to prove the rule and is the only representative still tweeting.

Romania is similar to other countries that joined the EU in 2004 and 2007. The Twitter phenomenon has not yet taken root in the political life of these countries. While use of Facebook has increased dramatically, particularly during national elections, the impact of Twitter has not yet been judged great enough for politicians to devote a part of their communication to it.

Number of MEPs on Twitter: 5/33 or 15%
Accounts actually in use: 1 (20%)


British MEPs on Twitter

The United Kingdom is average with 38% of its MEPs present on Twitter. Like in France, these MEPs do not always discuss European affairs. The internal campaign for the succession of Gordon Brown – a very national issue – was the focus of Labour MPs’ tweeting. It is worth stating that the main use of Twitter by British MEPs is rather traditional in its style of communication with few retweets or responses to citizens.

One particularity of British accounts is that 15 of them have added the acronym “MEP” to the end of their name to clearly state their title. This addition is rare among the accounts of other European MEPs.

Number of MEPs on Twitter: 27/72 or 38%
Accounts actually in use: 23 (85%)