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Scottish MPs face most hostility on Twitter

Research by the University of Central Lancashire shows Scottish MPs of all parties are facing higher levels of hostility and negativity on Twitter than their English colleagues.

Research from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has found that Scottish MPs of all parties are facing higher levels of hostility and negativity on Twitter than their English colleagues.

When it comes to the MPs with the most hostile tweets, four out of the top ten are Scottish. Scotland’s only Labour and Conservative MPs, Ian Murray and David Mundell, face recurring bouts of extreme hostility on Twitter, peaking around the triggering of Article 50.

Many hostile tweets aimed at Mr Mundell, Conservative, reference terms including brexit, EU, independence, union, Scotland, Scottish, unfair, democracy, referendum and similar words. Hostile tweets aimed at Mr Murray, Labour, reference Scotland, Corbyn, brexit, disaster, destroying, independence and similar terms. Hostile tweets were also aimed SNP MPs Mhairi Black and Callum McCaig, who closely followed Ian Murray and David Mundell in the list.

Dr Martin Bateman, senior lecturer in computing, and Amy Binns, senior lecturer in journalism at UCLan, stored all messages sent to 565 MPs who use Twitter since December 22. Using machine learning software, these messages were then ranked as either positive, neutral, disagree, or hostile.

Out of MPs across the UK, Tim Loughton, Conservative MP for East Worthing, faced the highest number of hostile social media messages. These spiked after he attended the BAFTAs and criticised director Ken Loach’s speech as “pathetic drivel”.

The hostility aimed at the Scottish MPs appears to be of a different type to hostile tweets experienced by MPs in the rest of the UK.

Discussing the findings, Amy Binns said: “The hostility aimed at the Scottish MPs appears to be of a different type to hostile tweets experienced by MPs in the rest of the UK. It is a more regular feature of their Twitter streams. It comes in recurring waves, though it is linked to events such as the triggering of Article 50. There seems to be more invective aimed at the Conservative Mr Mundell than the Labour MP Mr Murray.”

“These are the early results of an ongoing research project, so more analysis is needed, but it seems clear that the spikes experienced by Ms Onwurah, Mr Loughton and Mr Freeman were the result of a specific tweet or quote by them.

She added: “Analysis of social media is a new way of understanding the voter landscape, particularly in the run up to the general election. It can’t be treated as polling due to the skewed demographics of social media, but it allows us to observe the strength of feeling and issues concerning the electorate.”

Jeremy Corbyn is by far the most messaged MP, with 110,378 tweets sent to him over the five month period. 10.7% of these were hostile, and 26.5% of mentions were ranked as negative (including hostile and disagree).

Theresa May is the second most messaged with 75,219 tweets sent to her over the five month period. 10.3% of these were hostile, and 25.8% were negative. 26.2% of the 21,070 tweets sent to Tim Farron were negative, and 10.6% were hostile.

Press Office | 05 June 2017