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Blind social media study – Least trustworthy, least friendly and most patronising UK politicians revealed

by Andreas Voniatis

A new study conducted by Artios, a London-based artificial intelligence company, has revealed our true feelings about our politicians, by analysing how their social media posts are received when the author’s identity is hidden.

1000 UK adults ‘blind tested’ a variety of social media content, from politicians representing an equal cross section of political parties.

Study participants scored the content based on a range of criteria, including trustworthiness, approachability and how patronised they felt.

The study revealed:

  • On average, left wing politicians were considered more ‘friendly’ than those on the right.
  • Newly-appointed Shadow Health Secretary Diane Abbott scored highest for being patronising.
  • UKIP’s only MP Douglas Carswell was both the least friendly and least trustworthy politician – only 3% thought his social media content made him seem ‘approachable’.
  • Lib Dem MP Greg Mulholland’s content scored highest for friendliness – 80% of women and 68% of men agreed.
  • The highest rating for trustworthiness was just 14%, for a post written by David Cameron
  • Labour MP Stella Creasy received the highest score for approachability, with 11% of women and 9% of men agreeing.

The results of the survey showed a clear correlation between politician’s ages and how patronising they appear to the public on social media. The youngest politicians cited, Stella Creasy (39) and Greg Mulholland (45), were considered the least patronising across both genders. The two oldest, Diane Abbott and Louise Burfitt-Dons, both 62, scored the highest.

Women generally responded more positively to the political social media posts than men, the one exception being Douglas Carswell’s Tweet. The men surveyed found it marginally more friendly, trustworthy and approachable.

Most Trustworthy

This Facebook post from David Cameron’s official page scored highest for trustworthiness, but only 14% rated it as trustworthy.

“David Bowie was someone who people of my age, and those quite a bit older, felt we grew up with. He provided a soundtrack to our lives, from the first time I heard Space Oddity to the pride of welcoming British athletes at the London Olympics to one of his masterpieces – ‘Heroes”

David Cameron, Facebook.

Least Friendly and Least Trustworthy

Douglas Carswell’s blunt Tweet was almost universally disliked by those surveyed:

‘BT needs to change more than just its crappy corporate affairs team’

@DouglasCarswell, Twitter.

Most Friendly

Showing a more human side generally elicited a more positive response in the survey participants. The most trustworthy, friendly and approachable posts all focused on elements of the politicians’ private lives. Lib Dem Greg Mulholland’s Facebook post scored highest for friendliness:

“Thanks Murdo & Claire for inviting us to your 30th/40th party at Otley Social Club! A great night, nice food & banter & great singing!”

Greg Mulholland, Facebook.

Most Approachable

Labour MP Stella Creasy’s Instagram post was the most approachable, with 10% of people agreeing. In contrast, only 3% found Douglas Carswell’s Tweet to be approachable.

“Had just been wondering what to do with the slightly warped contents of my fridge – and then my neighbour came round with bonners chips for me as a treat …sometimes Walthamstow you excel beyond measure” – @stellacreasy, Instagram

Most Patronising

Labour MP and Shadow Health Secretary Diane Abbott’s Tweet was considered to be the most patronising of all posts, with 34% of the surveyed adults agreeing:

“I went to all girls school. Have always assumed girls do better in them #girlsruleOK” – @HackneyAbbott, Twitter

Andreas Voniatis, a data scientist and Managing Director of Artios, who conducted the research, wanted to investigate how people responded to politicians on social media when faces, names and ideologies were taken out of the equation.

“Our political views inevitably colour the way we see politicians, so we wanted to analyse people’s responses when they were shown blind social media posts in plain text, and couldn’t rely on their existing biases.”

One of our most interesting findings was how the platform used correlated with levels of trust and positivity. Posts shared on Facebook were received most positively, while tweets received the least positive responses.

The research also supports the idea that social media is more of a young person’s game. Younger politicians were generally received much better than older ones.

Ends

How we did the research

The study was conducted by OnePoll (members of ESOMAR and the Market Research Society) on behalf of Artios, using a nationally representative sample of 1,000 UK adults, who each analysed 18 randomly-selected pieces of content from popular social media accounts on 6 different criteria.

The content analysed was published in 2015/2016.

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