The Top 25% of Leaders, Legislators Account for the Bulk of Tweets, Engagement

Pew Research Center examined officials’ Twitter activity in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US

Legislators in the U.S. and U.K. tweeted most frequently, at a median of 79 and 70 tweets per month, respectively qingwa/iStock
Headshot of David Cohen

Believe it or not, leaders and legislators besides President Donald Trump use Twitter, too.

To get a greater grasp of what this usage looks like, the Pew Research Center examined accounts from national leaders and legislators in five predominantly English-speaking countries: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S.

In all, Pew researchers examined more than 1.3 million tweets posted between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2019, by national legislators in those five countries.

While most members of the national legislative bodies in those five countries had Twitter accounts, the majority of tweets came from the top 25% of prolific tweeters, both overall and country-by-country, according to the report.

Not surprisingly, those prolific accounts tallied the most audience engagement, as well.

For example, in Canada, the top one-quarter of accounts studied were behind 68% of total tweets in the country during the time period examined, but they collected over 80% of likes and retweets.

The story was similar in the U.S., with the top 25% of Congressional tweeters responsible for 58% of all tweets but receiving roughly 70% of all likes and retweets.

Pew wrote, “Some of these tweets produce tens of thousands of likes and retweets from the broader Twitter public. However, in the majority of cases, tweets from legislators simply pass from view into the internet void. Across all five countries, the median tweet garners fewer than 20 likes and five or fewer retweets from other users on the platform.”

Other findings by Pew included:

  • The percentage of legislators in the five countries studied who had Twitter accounts ranged from 61% to 100%, and 73% of those legislators tweeted at least once during the first six months of 2019.
  • Legislators in the U.S. and U.K. tweeted most frequently, at a median of 79 and 70 tweets per month, respectively. The other countries lagged far behind: Canada (48), Australia (33) and New Zealand (15).
  • Just 4% of U.S. legislators tweeted every day that they were in the office during the study period.
  • In countries with both elected and appointed officials, elected officials were more active on the social network. In the U.K., Pew found that 28% of House of Lords members tweeted at least once during the first six months of 2019, compared with 90% of House of Commons members. And in Canada, 67% of Senate members tweeted during the study period (Senate members are appointed in the country), versus 94% of House members. In contrast, the numbers were nearly identical for the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, both of which are elected.
  • 97% of legislators who have tweeted have used hashtags, while 70% have added emojis to their tweets.

Pew said in the introduction to its report, “Social media has become a key element of political discourse in many countries, allowing legislators to express their opinions, share information and connect with constituents online. Twitter is one prominent platform that enables this exchange, and many national leaders—both domestically and outside the U.S.—tweet regularly.”


david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.
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