Scottish independence: Yes winning Twitter battle

Picture: Contributed
Picture: Contributed
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THE Yes campaign for Scottish independence is winning the battle for social media, according to new research published today.

Researchers at Glasgow University have found that the campaign for Scottish independence is way ahead of the Better Together campaign on social media site Twitter.

Analysis of traffic on the social media site which includes #indyref shows the Yes campaign has more followers and a wider network of active tweeters spreading their campaign message than Better Together.

The data, collected as part of an ongoing research project to monitor how Twitter is being used in the referendum debate, shows that the Yes Scotland Twitter profile has nearly double the number of followers than Better Together.

Key figures for the Yes campaign, such as Nicolas Sturgeon, also have more followers than key players from the other side such as Alistair Darling.

Michael Comerford from the University’s Policy Scotland department said: “As might be expected, the official campaign accounts, @yesscotland and @uk_together and the related hashtags, #yes and #bettertogether are the most prominent nodes on the network graph.

“These accounts, which show the Yes campaign with around 28,000 followers and Better Together at 16,000 followers are primarily used for broadcast purposes, to let the world know what the campaign is doing and what its views are.

“The other main sources of information provided by the campaigns through twitter are from spokespeople who have significant followers ~ for example @nicolaSturgeon who has 34,000 and @TogetherDarling with 9,000 followers.”

There is also more support for Twitter profiles which are not official related, but support independence.

Amongst groups with significant online profiles on the Yes side are @wearenational the Twitter account of National Collective, the pro-independence artists group, and @celebsforindy an aggregation of non-partisan pro-independence comments from celebrities.

Yes’ bloggers are also strongly represented through accounts such as @wingsscotland - the Twitter expression of Wings Over Scotland, an independent pro-independence website.

The strongest on the No side are apparently anonymous individuals such as @strongerunited1 and @mulder1981 who generate a lot of pro-union traffic.

Compared with the Yes side however, there are fewer independent pro-union nodes not directly linked with the official campaign. With the exception of the campaign spokespersons and First Minister Alex Salmond, politicians do not feature strongly in the #indyref network.

Michael Comerford said: “From an academic point of view, the referendum is an opportunity to observe, analyse and interpret what is going on in a unique set of political circumstances.

“We invite comments about the network that might help us discern what is going on and will approve (without endorsing) those that seem to us to aid understanding in the interest of promoting the widest non-partisan discussion of the way twitter is being used in the referendum debate

“What both campaigns will want to understand is how, if at all, this medium can be used to communicate with, motivate and mobilise their existing supporters and also attract the attention of new and different audiences with the aim of securing votes in September.

“Our network map shows however that many users of social media are not merely content to receive and pass on messages from the official campaigns or their leaders.

“The debate on twitter has a wide range of contributors and their conversations are an interesting aspect of the referendum debate. What effect they have of the eventual outcome is yet to be seen, but how the medium is being used is what for the moment we are focusing on.”