What I'd like to talk about today are some of the interesting breakdowns in the figures.
There's a substantial divide between Senators and members of the House of Representatives, with MPs far more likely to use social media channels than Senators - particularly Facebook, where there is a 30% difference (39.47% of Senators compared to 69.33% of Reps).
This makes sense, given that MPs represent an electorate and have significant needs to connect with their constituents, whereas Senators, who represent states, generally do not campaign in a similar way.
|Social network||Senate||House of Representatives|
Unlike the broader Australian population, Twitter is the network of choice for parliamentarians - perhaps because it requires substantially less curation and moderation than Facebook.
|Social network||Online Australians||Federal parliamentarians|
Liberal and Labor members are both reasonably likely to use social media, with the Liberals ahead of Labor on 79.57% compared to 73.53%.
The Greens are the highest users of social media, with 100% of their federal parliamentarians using some form of social network. This offers their party opportunities to amplify their messages in ways difficult for smaller parties to do using traditional media.
The Nationals, in contrast, only have 69.23% of their parliamentarians using social media. While this may reflect the demographic composition of their electorates, which are more remote and statistically less likely to use online channels, in my view they are missing opportunities to connect to constituents who are online and allow more time to travel to remote constituents who are not.
75% of the independents (including the DLP and Katter's party) are using social media (with Tony Windsor the lone hold-out). Again, much the same reasons as for the Nationals may apply, and my views are the same.
(Note that as my spreadsheet is broader than Facebook and Twitter the percentages above for these networks are a little lower than the total.)
|Social network||Male parliamentarians||Female parliamentarians|
Even more notable is the age breakdown. The older the parliamentarian, the much less likely they are to use social networks.
|Birth years||Any social network||By the numbers|
|1940-49||64.71%||11 of 17 parliamentarians|
|1950-59||61.76%||42 of 68 parliamentarians|
|1960-69||81.97%||50 of 61 parliamentarians|
|1970+||100.00%||32 of 32 parliamentarians|
This becomes telling when considering that older parliamentarians are far more likely to hold Ministerial or other senior posts, and therefore be decision-makers regarding which channels they are comfortable for their departments to use.
There's clearly some way to go before all parliamentarians are using social networks to connect with constituents. However there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel, with almost 80% of parliamentarians now using social networks.
I expect that by this time next year, around the time of the next federal election this will jump at least another 10%, and by the end of 2014 all Australian federal parliamentarians will be using social networks, in some way, to engage their constituents.