Political Twitter habits vary enormously across cultures and personalities. The US is at one end of the spectrum and Switzerland at the other. A look at some other European nations throws up a few surprises.
US President elect Donald Trump seems to have decided he can govern in 140 characters. He currently has more than 20 million Twitter followers and has sent over 34,000 Tweets since opening an account in 2009.
Some think his Tweets are having a powerful effect on the decisions of some CEOs.
General Motors is sending Mexican made model of Chevy Cruze to U.S. car dealers-tax free across border. Make in U.S.A.or pay big border tax!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2017
Thank you to Ford for scrapping a new plant in Mexico and creating 700 new jobs in the U.S. This is just the beginning – much more to follow
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 4, 2017
Trump says he uses Twitter to bypass media that present fake news..
If the press would cover me accurately & honorably, I would have far less reason to “tweet.” Sadly, I don’t know if that will ever happen!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 5, 2016
Some media, like the New York Times, say he is using Twitter to spread falsehood.
10 times Donald Trump spread fake news https://t.co/zXuP9uFR5f
— The New York Times (@nytimes) 19 janvier 2017
Here is one of the examples cited:
An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that @BarackObama‘s birth certificate is a fraud.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 6, 2012
Donald Trump is not the first politician to harness the power of Twitter. Nor does he have the Twitter presence of outgoing US President Barack Obama, who opened an account in 2007, and now has more than 80 million followers. Trump is however a more prolific Tweeter having sent more than 34,000 Tweets to Obama’s 15,000 – not all Tweets on Obama’s account are his. The account is run by Organizing for Action staff.
A quick search for Swiss cabinet members, or Federal Councillors, on Twitter reveals a stark difference. Five of the seven have no Twitter accounts.
Switzerland’s current President, Doris Leuthard, has no account. Only Ueli Maurer and Alain Berset have signed up. Berset was first, creating an account in 2010. Maurer followed in 2012. Berset has the most followers, 71,000 compared to Maurer’s 3,000. Maurer is more prolific having sent 801 Tweets to Berset’s 533.
- The Swiss president’s commute goes viral on twitter (Le News)
- Swiss president’s commute – a video by swissinfo.ch (Le News)
Even after adjusting for national population, Alain Berset would need around half a million followers to compare to Donald Trump and nearly 2 million to compete with Barack Obama.
Politicians’ use of Twitter varies enormously across Europe.
French politicians and public are fond of 140 character sound bites. President Hollande has sent 4,800 of them to 1.9 million followers. French presidential hopefuls Emmanuel Macron (418,000 followers), Francois Fillon (391,000 followers) and Marine Le Pen (1.2 million followers), are all active Tweeters.
In Italy, former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, has 2.8 million followers tuning in to his 5,600 Tweets.
Britain’s current Prime Minister Teresa May has far fewer followers (211,000) than her predecessor David Cameron (1.6 million). She seems to prefer the more official Twitter account set up for the UK Prime Minister.
Germany’s leader, like Switzerland’s, has stayed away from the short sharp fire of Twitter. One account, AngelaMerkelCDU, which looks like it might be official, has only 2,000 followers and 17 Tweets. And an official German parliamentary Twitter account registers little interest (30,000 followers). Germany’s Chancellor does however have a Facebook page with 2.3 million followers, which lists her favourite reading material (books by Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky), favourite film (Out Of Africa), and her favourite quote: Politics is not about just being right, but about being proven right in the end.
Swiss president Doris Leuthard has no Facebook page. She has a personal Facebook account, but her last post to that was in April last year. Perhaps she connects with the public directly as she moves around the country on Switzerland’s efficient public train network, as former Swiss president Didier Burkhalter became internationally famous for when a photo of him on a train platform went viral after being Tweeted in 2014.