|Photo by Andrew Flood|
If only there were some way to gauge the following of a specific Twitter account. Perhaps through some sort of programming or scripting language. In a manner that might, say, output the relevant information in human readable format, and suggest which politicians were favoured.
My first check was to pull details of the followers of @FineGaelToday and compare with that of @ProLifeCampaign. There was a 2.2% crossover. Is this an adequate counter to @ProLifeCampaign's claims? Perhaps not. Some Fine Gael tweeps may only follow their local TDs. It's conceivable that some of them would follow no Fine Gael accounts, though over @ProLifeCampaign's 5,721 followers I would not expect that condition to be exclusively expressed.
So I checked every account followed by more than five of @ProLifeCampaign's followers.
When I did I found that the twelfth most popular account followed by @ProLifeCampaign's followers is, indeed, a politician. A man who celebrates his Catholic faith, is considered right wing, represents a major party and is proud of his Irish heritage. I speak of course of failed Republican candidate for vice president Paul Ryan.
Perhaps this is an unfair cheap shot - Paul Ryan is not the most popular politician on this list. For that we must move up the rankings to examine the man who occupies fourth slot, a Mr Mitt Romney. Despite an exhaustive search of the Fine Gael website I was unable to ascertain which constituency he represented. Perhaps he is new? Do let me know in the comments.
Trudging onwards to the 35th slot we find our friends' favour bestowed on Rick "rape pregnancy is God's gift" Santorum. (At this point I skipped ahead somewhat and was gratified to learn that only 26 chose to follow Todd "Legitimate Rape" Akin.)
Coming in 48th place on the list we find Sarah Palin. From memory her home town overlooks Russia; even on the clearest day that is unlikely to be a feat one can accomplish from any Fine Gael constituency. I pressed on, wondering how likely I would be to recognise the names of further US congressmen. In 53rd place I found Barack Obama. In 81st, I found Paul Ryan's second Twitter account. (His staff run both PaulRyanVP and RepPaulRyan.) 93rd showed me Governor Mike Huckabee, 118th was Karl Rove, these twain followed rapidly by John Boehner, Markham Robinson, Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Bachmann.
Finally we came to our first Irish figure. Although not a politician David Quinn's entry at 134th is worthy of mention, @ProLifeCampaign's followers bestowing on him the ringing endorsement of having three shared followers more than Ray Comfort, a buffoon who misunderstands the cultivation of bananas and considers the universe to be about six thousand years old, give or take the week required for its creation.
The list grew tedious and even more bizarre, even by my generous standards. I applied a filter to show only those accounts that contained the term "Fine Gael" in its description and then removed non politicians before putting the remainder in a ranked table for your convenience. Do bear in mind that this means their followers found 1,780 accounts more pertinent to them than any Fine Gael TD.
|Ranking||Fine Gael member|
|2,272||Simon Harris TD|
|2,390||Fine Gael Official|
|4,079||Jerry Buttimer TD|
|6,392||Young Fine Gael|
So there we have it. Nothing breaking the 3% support barrier, all ranking below Young Earth Creationists, an account called "aFasterPC', and a Christian pop rock band (I confess I have not listened) from Ohio called Sanctus Real.
Still, I hear the murmur, what of the thousands who stood to protest the introduction of legislation to save women's lives? Or the 13% of Irish people who feel women should die with their foetus? What are their political leanings? We cannot learn from banners used at the vigil for keeping abortions in Britain; any brought to the demonstration were confiscated and replaced with those bearing an approved message. We are left too little to go on.
That said it's instructive to note that Fianna Fáil outranks any Fine Gael account by a considerable margin, @FiannaFailParty coming in 1,359th overall by sharing 3% of @ProLifeCampaign's followers. But let's remember that only 10% of @ProLifeCampaign's followers are based in Ireland. Working off the reasonable rubric that they are the ones most likely to express an interest in Irish politics, we could hazard a guess at 22% Fine Gael support and 30% Fianna Fáil. I hear the criticism that this is not a thorough poll, that IPSOS are not rending their clothing and firing staff at the sight of my entry to their area of expertise. Whatever your criticisms of using Twitter to gauge support may be, do bear in mind I'm presenting considerably more evidence than @ProLifeCampaign. They claim that their followers are Fine Gael voters, and they claim further that these voters will be switching affiliations should Fine Gael fulfil their responsibilities as legislators.
I for one would like to see @ProLifeCampaign's homework.