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Tweets from the Campaign Trail

Researching Candidates’ Use of Twitter During the European Parliamentary Elections

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Edited By Alex Frame, Arnaud Mercier, Gilles Brachotte and Caja Thimm

Hailed by many as a game-changer in political communication, Twitter has made its way into election campaigns all around the world. The European Parliamentary elections, taking place simultaneously in 28 countries, give us a unique comparative vision of the way the tool is used by candidates in different national contexts. This volume is the fruit of a research project bringing together scholars from 6 countries, specialised in communication science, media studies, linguistics and computer science. It seeks to characterise the way Twitter was used during the 2014 European election campaign, providing insights into communication styles and strategies observed in different languages and outlining methodological solutions for collecting and analysing political tweets in an electoral context.

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11. Pablo Iglesias’ Tweeting Style: Unsuccessfully Aspiring to Renew Spanish Political Discourse (Vizcaino, Fernando Bonete / Guinovart,Elena Cebrián / Barrio, Tamara Vázquez)

Fernando Bonete Vizcaino, Elena Cebrián Guinovart &

Tamara Vázquez Barrio (CEU Madrid)

11. Pablo Iglesias’ Tweeting Style: Unsuccessfully Aspiring to Renew Spanish Political Discourse

Abstract

This chapter analyses Pablo Iglesias’ tweeting style during the European campaign and the quality of his attempts to establish a dialogue with citizens, suggesting that Podemos’ new message, based on being closer to citizens’ concerns and the increase of participation, is not necessarily reflected in its leader’s conduct on Twitter.

11.1 Introduction

The left-wing reformist party Podemos erupted on the Spanish political scene in January 2014 with a promise of renewal. The economic crisis and the strong laws passed by the government to tackle it, subsequent unemployment and the numerous corruption scandals affecting Spanish political parties have served these last few years as precursors for the birth of numerous social movements and political parties demanding deep change in the way politics is understood. The answers Podemos gave to these requests, based on a constitutional reform that suited the vast majority of them, linked the party with the new social and political spirit. Furthermore, since its arrival on the Spanish scene, the party has been associated with a young, fresh, dynamic form of doing politics. Its direct and aggressive discourse was initially reinforced by the massive success of the Coalition of the Radical Left SYRIZA in Greece (The Economist, 2014), which equally targeted people’s wariness to the same old message from traditional Spanish parties and their inner corruption, and provided Podemos with an outstanding opportunity to portray itself as an emergent party in the context of the European Elections. That was understood days after the elections by The New York Times, which interpreted Podemos’ success as follows: “Given the deep unpopularity of Spain’s mainstream politicians, the endemic corruption exposed by the financial crisis and the pain felt by the 26 percent of the work force still unemployed despite hints of recovery, politicians and analysts are taking the threat posed by Podemos seriously” (Rapahel Minder, 2014).←251 | 252→

Indeed, Podemos soon received strong media coverage. Over and after the campaign, the media placed great emphasis on the authenticity of Podemos’ social networks activity, because it was supposedly a faithful reflection of its new-look proposals. Thus, for instance, Spanish and left-wing national newspaper Público stated “the main key of this social media whirlwind is to make citizens protagonists, not the other way around, like the rest of parties usually do, because they understand social networks as an eminently unidirectional tool” (David Bollero, 2014). This publication also considered Podemos as the most constant and participative political party in social networks, truly open when creating and establishing a dialogue with citizens. The degree to which some of these claims by the media are representative of reality is something that will be shown here, especially because the media hype was enhanced the day after the elections, when the hashtag “Pablo Iglesias” achieved the first position on the Spanish top ranking of Twitter’s Trending Topic list (Trendinalia, 2014).

The category NGO reflects a will to debate social affairs. Finally, retweets categorized as Citizen imply a disposition for dialogue with the general public, the electors. A last category called Other includes any other type not covered by the above.

When talking about Intention, we have established the following categories for every tweet or retweet: “Visibility of the Politician”, “Live Tweeting of a Political Act” and “Advertising Achievements”, on one hand; “Ideological Discourse”, “Proposal”, “Critical Message” and “Defensive Message”, on the other. Tweets categorized within the first three are considered as low quality messages in terms of participation. They are focused on @Pablo_Iglesias_’ self-promotion. The last four appear to be considerably more promising as far as they set up an ideological bulwark that may propitiate political debates. Personalization of politics, a further category called “Human Side”, has been also taken into consideration, being matched as a form of low quality participation. The category “Call for Action” represents @Pablo_Iglesias_’ requests to his supporters, and the quality in terms of participation depends on his sollicitations, which could either be self-promoting petitions or requests for citizens’ opinion. Moreover, every tweet with a specific aim not listed above has been classified as Other.

In order to note the theme, we followed the same procedure for all tweets and retweets, using the categories employed by the Spanish public opinion research organism Centro Superior de Investigaciones Sociológicas (CIS): 20 categories that we had previously split into two different macro-types based on political participation. The first group includes 16 themes related to political engagement that may represent valuable political interaction. It is the case of “National, International and Regional Politics”, “Economy”, “Employment”, “Population”, “Envi←252 | 253→ronment”, “Housing”, “Health”, “Justice”, “Science and Technology”, “Education”, “Social Problems”, “Media”, “Culture”, “Sports” and “Ideology”. The second group incorporates three topics, “Political Activity”, “Political Leader” and “Electoral Campaign”, all of them linked to political theatricals. By contrast, these three categories are likely to represent trivial political participation. The remaining category has been called “Other” to note any other theme not listed above.

The use of hashtags and mentions has been approached not only to quantify them, but to evaluate whether @Pablo_Iglesias_ is using these resources to create or maintain a dialogue (a new debate or a pre-existing one, mentioning users or topics placed outside his party), to call upon electors to take part in a certain action or to ask them for their support or, on the contrary, whether he uses hashtags and mentions as a repeated source of promotion (mentioning only what provides more visibility to his proposals). We have followed the same method when taking into account links. Apart from knowing their number, we evaluate which ones have enriched political discourse by considering their contribution to the debate.

Retweets, favourites and comments received by @Pablo_Iglesias_ in all of his tweets have been also considered, though they give us few clues about his interaction. The keys about real interaction have been obtained with the second part of the analysis: the 527 responses sent on 8th, 15th and 22nd of May. We have distinguished between conversations, when Pablo Iglesias replies to users, and comments, when users respond to @Pablo_Iglesias_ but they do not receive a reply from him. Both cases are evaluated and categorized: even when the politician does not reply to public opinion received, comments are still instances in which the public expresses its political concerns and aspirations.

The categories employed in this case are Authorship, Theme, Intention and Quality. Authorship and Theme follow the same parameters applied in the analysis of @Pablo_Iglesias_’ tweets. Those comments in which we have found a clear intention have been categorized as “Favourable”, “Unfavourable”, “Neutral” or “Question”, depending on the reaction showed when facing the politician tweets. Not only have we described the content of the tweets written by the users, but we have also measured their quality according to consistency with the theme of the original tweet posted by the politician, and relevance, when a comment raises or addresses a politically main issue.

11.2 Tweeting style: the account’s activity

All 322 tweets registered during the campaign were published in a changing frequency, which we could define as irregular. The maximums coincided with the initial, half-way and last stages of the campaign: 31 tweets for the 9th, 26 for the←253 | 254→ 16th and again 31 for the 23rd. Before and after these peaks, ups and downs were registered in the number of tweets published, minima taking place on the 8th (12 tweets), the 18th (7 tweets) and the 24th (4 tweets).

However, not all messages were tweeted by @Pablo_Iglesias_. Leaving aside retweets, representing some 28 % of all published in his account, we counted that 77 % of tweets are written by the communication team, and only 23 % of them can be attributed to @Pablo_Iglesias_. Taking into account these data, we have plotted the following graph, showing the evolution of the account through the campaign, counting tweets published by the politician, tweets written by his team and retweets separately.

Fig. 1 Amount and authorship of Tweets published by the account @Pablo_Iglesias_

image

As seen in the table, maximums are powered by retweets on 9th and especially on 23rd, in the final drive of the campaign. The most significant differences between authorship are placed on these three peaks, as well as the 13th and 21st. In these five cases, politicians published less tweets than their teams. Indeed, if Pablo Iglesias personally posted as many tweets as his team on 15th, 22nd and 25th, he posted none on 8th and 9th, the two very first days of the campaign. On the whole, Podemos’ communication team posted 179 tweets, three times more than the politician, who posted 32 tweets. The retweets totalled 91, doubling the politician’s ones.

As previously mentioned, retweets registered their maximum on 23rd, having another outstanding rise at the beginning of the campaign, on 9th. The lowest←254 | 255→ numbers were counted on the first and last day, and 10th and 13th. This last day Pablo Iglesias only retweeted once, while his publications were on the rise, above all those written by his team. Taking into account the information collected, it becomes clear that Pablo Iglesias’ account gets its quantitative intensity thanks to his team’s publications and not by his own tweets, which really appears to show that the importance the politician gave to Twitter, as a good monitoring tool for being in closer touch with the elector’s worries, remained secondary. The same attitude seems to be shared by the politician’s team, which at certain moments of the campaign left it to be filled by retweets, without maintaining about their own contributions to the account. The irregular rhythm of the account’s publications could suggest the lack of a comprehensive plan or communication program specially designed for Twitter.

On the contrary, in relation to retweets, favourites and comments, as showed in the graphs placed below, the evolution is much more regular, as they follow a similar progression through the campaign:

Fig. 2 Retweets, favourites and comments received by @Pablo_Iglesias_

image

Numbers of retweets are always greater than favourites and comments, while the latter, by contrast, is placed everyday below retweets and favourites. Nevertheless, the maximum was registered for the three of them on 14th making a huge difference when compared to the days before and after. Other peaks were registered on 12th and 16th, and at the final stage of the campaign, on 21st and 23rd. On the whole, we could say these peaks coincide with the amount of publications made←255 | 256→ each day: the more tweets are published, the more retweets, favourites and comments are gained by the politician. There is a noteworthy quantitative difference between these parameters on 14th, the day on which @Pablo_Iglesias_ received great attention when publishing a joke about the Popular Party: a witty comparison between the envelopes used by propaganda mailing and the ones used to bribe, which means the peak is not due to a participation with significant serious political content.

On the whole, this close and proportional relationship between the three variables mentioned could be a benchmark of the expectation created by @Pablo_Iglesias_’ messages. The users are continuously waiting for his words in order to reply, to retweet or to give them a favourite, and the more tweets they read, the more they interact.

Considering all tweets published by @Pablo_Iglesias_, a total of 75 mentions have been counted, which means less than a quarter of all published: 23 % of tweets written included them. 29 turned out to be self-mentions, what means that @Pablo_Iglesias_ mentioned one of the accounts owned by his party or his party’s leaders, 38,6 % of times he used the mention resource. Among the self-mentions, Podemos’ account (@ahorapodemos) was the most significant consistently mentioned, followed by a varied range of mentions that included Podemos’ local bases placed in different cities (@PodemosBerlin, @PodemosCordoba, @PodemosMalaga, @PodemosSa, @PODEMOS_LH) or Podemos’ leaders such as Pablo Echenique (@pnique), Lola Sánchez Caldentey (@LolaPodemos), Tania González Peñas (@TaniaGonzalezPS) or Teresa Rodríguez (@TeresaRodr_). 46 tweets were mentioning accounts without any direct relation with the politician and his party, more than a half of times Pablo Iglesias’ account used the mention resource. Among these, the accounts of the opposition candidates for the European Parliament were the most mentioned, Popular Party’s Miguel Arias Cañete (@AriasCanete_, @Canete2014_) and Socialist Elena Valenciano (@ElenaValenciano). Mentions to both candidates always included a critical message and real debates with them or others and the ideological-political exchange that we would take as a given in a campaign are rarely achieved by the use of this resource.

However, there is an exception, which is not used too many times, but which we would like to highlight: @Pablo_Iglesias_ used a combination of the mentions @AriasCanete_ and @ElenaValenciano with #CaraACaraTVE, the hashtag used by Spanish national network RTVE for a debate between the candidates of the two Spanish majority parties. The appearance of the hashtag seemed aimed to criticise the absence of the rest of the parties and, in some way, @Pablo_Iglesias_←256 | 257→ and Podemos used these Twitter resources to take part in the debate overcoming the setback.

These two recurring mentions are followed by the Spanish television morning magazine Mañanas Cuatro (@mananascuatro), where Pablo Iglesias eventually participated. This latter means a sort of self-mention, considering that the politician used it in order to inform people about his activity, his participation in the program, relaying some of his appearances. On the whole, mentions seem to be used to spread news of the politician’s activity which, added to the extensive use of self-mentions, turns the use of Twitter mentions into trivial political participation.

Fig. 3 – The frequency of all mentions used (number of times each one appears during the campaign). The ones highlighted indicate self-mentions.

←257 | 258→

image

Pablo Iglesias used hashtags in four out of ten tweets, and all of the most significant ones present a clear attempt to spread and promote Podemos, with claims such as #DifundePodemos, #Podemos1000razones, #YoVotoPodemos and #Podemos25M. Only two of the hashtags registered covered public concerns, such as unemployment (#ParadosM4) and retirement (#Jubilados). #SinBancosPodemos was used to highlight Podemos independence from banks financing and show its crowdfunding efforts. Nevertheless, the three hashtags mentioned were used only on one occasion. One more time, as said above about mentions, Pablo Iglesias is using Twitter hashtags for two main purposes: contributing to his party propaganda and criticising the opposition and the political establishment, which avoids political exchanges and closer dialogue with citizens.

Fig. 4 – The frequency of all hashtags used (number of times each one appears during the campaign).

←258 | 259→

image

Links counted present similar numbers: about half of the tweets (45 %) incorporated a link. Most of them (28 %) are photographs, which are employed to publicize political acts and show Podemos’ propaganda. We have also found an extensive use of journalistic pieces linked (25 %), above all to the interviews made with @Pablo_Iglesias_ during the campaign, and a huge variety of videos (16 %), though the vast majority of them spread the official video made by Podemos for the campaign. Moreover, the large number of times Podemos’ official video was repeatedly announced showed a lack of creativity and digital resources, and highlighted again that @Pablo_Iglesias_’ main goal, in terms of hypertextuality, is to achieve the highest efficiency in promoting his party, even when political public concerns are left aside.

As noted in the methodological introduction, the appearance of hashtags as well as links has a significant meaning that goes beyond the interest of measuring: they show the politician’s willingness to introduce into his account a new debate based on the concerns of the Spanish public or to participate in a pre-existing discussion. However, as predicted above, the cases observed during the European campaign do not support the idea that @Pablo_Iglesias_’ uses these tools to introduce qualitatively relevant political debates. Hashtags and links were published in about half of the messages, but their intention is invariably related to either the candidate himself or the party, rather than towards significant political, ideological or public issues.

Moreover, @Pablo_Iglesias_’ trend to include references to his own party is confirmed by the source of his retweets. As showed in the graph placed below, the 60,44 % of the publications retweeted came from Podemos, which added to the 5,48 % from Podemos politicians and the 2,20 % of Podemos base politics, means that the 68,12 % of all retweets are based on Podemos proposals and propaganda, leaving only a much lower 12,09 % to citizens. @Pablo_Iglesias_ did not make electors the main characters of his campaign. The account seemed to be setting them aside.←259 | 260→

Fig. 5 – Sources of retweets

image

11.3 Account content: themes and intentions

As noted in the methodological introduction, the 20 categories used to classify tweets’ and retweets’ theme were divided into two different macro-types based on political participation. Two of the categories that belong to the group linked to political theatricals are placed in the top three. The topic Electoral Campaign represents 28.9 % of all published by @Pablo_Iglesias_, while Political Activity takes a 17.7 %, the first and the third positions in the ranking of themes considered, respectively.

Fig. 6 – Number of tweets published by themes

image

←260 | 261→

Indeed, if we put together by groups the numbers placed in the graph seen above, the one that represents political theatricals obtained a total of 48 %, while political engagement covered 48.4 % of tweets published. The remaining 3.4 % is referred to the category Other, where a huge and varied range of issues related to very specific conflicts were covered. Almost half of the total publications of the @Pablo_Iglesias_ account are thus likely to represent trivial political participation (political theatricals), while the other half may represent valuable political interaction (political engagement).

Furthermore, when talking about Electoral Campaign, Pablo Iglesias referred directly to elections, urging people to vote for Podemos and using some of the hashtags already mentioned, which were created explicitly for that goal, mainly #YoVotoPodemos, #VotandoPodemos, #Podemos25M and #Podemos1000Razones. Moreover, he used Twitter to promote campaign tactics and methods, such as encouraging Podemos’ supporters to mailshot the party’s propaganda (strengthening the traditional campaign), as well as calling on them to adopt the graphic avatar of the party as their profile photo to show their preference for Podemos (taking advantage of digital native resources). In both cases, the hashtag normally attached was #DifundePodemos, though in the ones specifically referring to mailshots, #CartaPodemos appeared occasionally. This last hashtag implies an interesting action, as it is the use of Twitter to create a closer and stronger relationship between the political campaign and Podemos’ supporters. Though the hashtag was used by the politician on very few occasions, its appearance is important in order to highlight an original and unique use of Twitter: #CartaPodemos underscores Twitter’s characteristic interaction and participation features, letting citizens become a part of the campaign and responsible for Podemos’ triumph. It is a resource Jungherr (2010) proved to be a successful tool in creating strong communities during the German elections on 2009 and a strategy the two main Spanish political leaders did not use on Twitter during the 2011 legislative campaign (Cebrián and Vázquez, 2013).

Political Activity referred the vast majority of times to announcements or dissemination of news about political rallies and @Pablo_Iglesias_’ appearances in the media. These tweets were often published linked to a photo, showing the rally poster or the politician surrounded by his supporters where the rally took place, or a streaming video link, where users could find the live program.

As opposed to this, the top two themes raised from the group related to political engagement are Politics (27,6 %) and Social Problems (7,1 %), which ranked, respectively, second and fourth in the general ranking. Among the specific issues covered by both themes, we concluded after the content evaluation that @Pablo_Iglesias_ focused his messages mainly on political parties and political lead←261 | 262→ers, followed by the ones about political institutions, demonstrations and social movements, this latter because 15th May was the anniversary of the protests that took place on 2011, and which gave their name to the 15-M Movement.

Following the Spanish research institute Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas, we adopted the ranking of public political concerns which featured in the barometer that this institution produced for May 2014. The aim of this is to compare the ten national issues that Spaniards were most concerned about with the ones with national importance covered by Pablo Iglesias’ tweets, in order to establish whether Podemos’ leader was tweeting about the electors’ worries or not during the campaign.

Among the top ten worries collected by the CIS, half of them were covered by Pablo Iglesias’ publications: Unemployment, Corruption and Fraud, Economic Problems, Political Parties and Leaders and Treasury and Fiscal Policies, which summed up a total of 99 tweets. The rest of them, excluding the undefined Other, were not covered at all by Podemos’ leader: Health, Education, Social Conflicts and Immigration. Indeed, 1 out of 3 tweets published by the politician’s account dealt with any one of the CIS’ issues, though, as can be seen in the table below, the level of importance changes when comparing one to another. Thus, Unemployment, the topic that concerns most Spanish citizens, occupies the third position on @Pablo_Iglesias_’ priorities. On the contrary, the politician dedicates most of his messages to talk about Political parties and leaders, a theme that only worries electors in fourth place.

Fig. 7 – Top 10 ranking of Spanish public concerns covered by the CIS’ barometer and Pablo Iglesias’ account

CIS’ barometer

Pablo Iglesias

1

Unemployment (80,80 %)

Political parties and leaders (12,42 % / 40 tweets)

2

Corruption and Fraud (35,70 %)

Corruption and Fraud (7,14 % / 23 tweets)

3

Economic Problems (28,60 %)

Unemployment (3,11 % / 10 tweets)

4

Political parties and leaders (25,60 %)

Economic Problems (2,80 %, 9 tweets)

5

Health (10,40 %)

Social Movements (1,86 % / 6 tweets)

6

Education (8,7 %)

National Establishment (1,24 % / 4 tweets)

7

Social Conflicts (7,9 %)

International Affaires (0, 93 % / 3 tweets)

8

Other (5,3 %)

Other (0,93 % / 3 tweets)

9

Treasury and fiscal policies (4,8 %)

Treasury and fiscal policies (0,62 % / 2 tweets)

10

Immigration (4,3 %)

International Institutions (0,62 % / 2 tweets)

←262 | 263→

A quick glimpse of the percentages of Intentions achieved by @Pablo_Iglesias_ gives us the key to complete and to understand data provided by Themes covered: self-promotion and the spread of Podemos rallies was the most significant intention of @Pablo_Iglesias_’ campaign, thus “Visibility of the Politician” and “Achievements Advertising” (33.2 %), followed by his critical messages (26.7 %) and calls for action (13.4 %). Thus, the intentions registered totally suit the top themes covered.

When talking about “Electoral Campaign” and “Political Activity” the intentions falls on urging his supporters to help and to vote Podemos and the announcements of his presence in political rallies and the media. This preference for self-promotion, propaganda and continuous and repetitive requests for assistance to supporters sidestep the political arena, making half of the campaign a showcase where the electors could find accurate personal information about Pablo Iglesias, but not necessarily as much information corresponding to dominant subjects of public interest.

Furthermore, the tweets focused on “Politics” and “Social Problems” generally criticize the opposition parties and leaders as well as the actions taken by them to solve the problems that concern Spaniards. The intention “Critical Message” was at the methodological introduction considered to be promising as far as it could set up an ideological bulwark that might propitiate political debates. However, that relationship with critics led Pablo Iglesias to avoid Unemployment as the first and most significant topic. During the second quarter of 2014, considering data provided by the Spanish National Statistics Institute (INE, 2014), unemployment was recovering, showing for the first time in the last six years positive figures. That recovery prevented @Pablo_Iglesias_ from focussing his critics on unemployment. On the whole, because of @Pablo_Iglesias_’ determination to focus his discourse on a critical view, he even obviates the opportunity to build constructive dialogue and engagement, wasting again the chance to propose new solutions to issues which were causing considerable concern to the electors.

11.4 Interaction: from citizens to Pablo Iglesias

As anticipated in the introduction, we learn more about @Pablo_Iglesias_’ interaction through the comments he received and the conversations he established with electors. As set out in the methodology, we have chosen three significant dates running through the campaign that represent three different stages of it (supra).

First of all, interaction around the account @Pablo_Iglesias_’ is primarily due to the 527 comments/answers received by users. Thus, the research about inter←263 | 264→action had to be influenced and framed since the very beginning by the claim that @Pablo_Iglesias_ did not really interact with the users, because he did not establish a conversation with the voters, missing out opportunities to set up a dialogue that could either answer people’s concerns or criticism. Noteworthy is this absence of any kind of real interaction, if we keep in mind that Podemos claims have been focused on the effort to increase civic participation, and indeed Pablo Iglesias himself tended to put this forward when participating on media shows and newspaper interviews, presenting himself as a leader sensitive to citizens’ concerns. The reality of his usage seems to be in stark contrast to this:

@Pablo_Iglesias_ only used the “reply” option once.

Therefore, it is not @Pablo_Iglesias_ but the electors’ attempts at interaction that were measured. Because the candidate is not carrying out the effort to be linked with citizen’s concerns, the voters were the only ones attempting to establish a dialogue with the candidate and be closer to him, and hence the only source of data to analyze.

If we have talked so far about “citizens” and “electors”, it is because percentages are very clear when showing the source of comments: 92 % of the total comes from citizens with no direct political affiliations indicated on their Twitter profiles. From the political scene, 6 % correspond to Podemos’ own politicians, while 1 % is related to a range of Podemos’ local political bases from different Spanish cities. These two groups involved themselves in dialogue to interact with citizens, answering the requests made, resolving some concerns already posed and, in conclusion, trying to accomplish some of the interaction eluded by @Pablo_Iglesias_. The remaining 1 % corresponds to journalists. This last 1 % rate may highlight the low interest showed by journalists to ask the candidate questions via Twitter, and the inconsistent media hype generated around Podemos and his leader.

Turning now to Themes evoked by citizens those three days, Politics is the most significant one, 40 % of the total, with concerns ranging from political parties and leaders to social movements. Social Problems such as fraud and corruption registered 14 %, occupying the third place right after Other (19 %), a huge range of topics whose variety made a specific analysis impossible, though many of them could be explained when getting a glimpse to the quality of the comments: 29 % of the total are irrelevant and incoherent, which means that 153 comments do not have any consistency with the theme of the original tweet posted by the politician and do not raise or address a political main issue. 68 % of comments are relevant and coherent, while the remaining 3 % is incoherent, not related to the topic posted by @Pablo_Iglesias_, but relevant in terms of politics.←264 | 265→

Fig. 8 – Percentages of the themes covered by the user’s comments, and compared to the ones post by @Pablo_Iglesias_

image

When talking about the citizens’ Intention, the graph placed below shows us that half of them are Favourable to @Pablo_Iglesias_:

Fig. 9 – Comments’ intention

image

The high numbers presented by Unclassifiable comments can be explained, again, through the large portion of incoherent and irrelevant ones. The data collected by Question, combined by the total absence of @Pablo_Iglesias_dialogue, shows that at least 37 citizens’ requests have not been directly replied to / dealt with.

11.5 Conclusions

The analysis developed throughout this chapter confirms a significant difference between the “new politics style” attributed to Podemos by the media, and the←265 | 266→ political communication strategy materialized in the Twitter account @Pablo_Iglesias_ during the European Election campaign.

First, the emphasis placed by the media on Pablo Iglesias as representing a renewed style of leadership was not materialized in the account’s contents during the campaign:

1. Most of the tweets posted in @Pablo_Iglesias_ were written by his team (77 %), which reflects that the politician’s attention was not focused on tweeting, throwing away the opportunity to address directly the citizens, without the mediatisation of other conventional channels.

2. The Twitter account even seems to have been considered as a minor channel during the European campaign: the intensity achieved by @Pablo_Iglesias_ at certain significant moments of the campaign, such as the final stage, is due to retweets, which means these moments are not followed by an extra effort by the team to manage Twitter and post its own original material on it.

3. @Pablo_Iglesias_ used Twitter operators and functions such as mentions, hashtags, links and retweets in order to promote Podemos’ political acts and to inform people about his own participation in them as well as criticizing the opposition’s procedures. As a general rule, very few attempts were made during the campaign to use these tools as a means to encourage political exchange between candidates, to discuss Spanish public concerns or to establish a real dialogue in order to be aware of citizens’ opinions.

4. Self-promotion and propaganda for Podemos were the main goals achieved by Pablo Iglesias’ account. The continuous and repetitive requests for assistance and support brought the absence of a real and interesting campaign based on the main goal of establishing a dialogue founded on citizens’ concerns.

5. The themes covered by Pablo Iglesias’ account highlight once more the importance the politician gave to self-promotion and propaganda, above all when considering that political engagement’s top theme (Politics) was destined to criticize the opposition, avoiding the opportunity to achieve a political exchange between candidates and enrich the Spanish political scene by covering citizens’ concerns with it. Moreover, differences between the CIS barometer and @Pablo_Iglesias_ thematic showed again the lack of attention when evaluating Spaniards’ real worries and interests.

Second, the dialogical style proposed by Podemos as a sign of his renewed politics is not materialized in the @Pablo_Iglesias_ account during the European campaign.←266 | 267→

6. Although the bidirectional expectations are confirmed by the figures of retweets, favourites and comments obtained, Pablo Iglesias’ profile answers just once during all the campaign misusing the opportunity for personalized contact and dialogue with voters.

7. Contact and dialogue were presumably comfortable considering that most of the comments were favourable. The close and proportional relation between the retweets, favourites and comments obtained by Pablo Iglesias’ tweets confirms the users’ interest in Pablo Iglesias’ publications: the more the politician tweets, the more his supporters interact.

8. On comparing the themes achieved by Pablo Iglesias and those posted by the citizens through their comments, significant differences were found: while citizens’ concerns appear to be Social Problems and Ideology, Pablo Iglesias chose to engage in political theatricals and political parties and leaders.

Globally considered, the exposed results clearly suggest that Podemos’ aspiration to renew Spanish political discourse on Twitter has not been achieved, on the whole, by its leader’s account. The actions performed are not understood as opportunities to foster political dialogue with the public or as a chance to allow citizens to employ their Twitter accounts as a means to invigorate political interaction.

References

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