A tale of three tribes: UK MPs, Twitter and the EU Referendum campaign

Liam Mcloughlin, Stephen Ward, Rachel Gibson, Rosalynd Southern

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This paper examines the structure of Twitter communication networks between MPs during the 2016 EU Referendum campaign. In particular, the research examines the impact of Twitter in two dimensions: (1) how far social media might facilitate inter-party linkages thus eroding traditional partisan relations between MPs? This was given added potential by the supposedly cross-party nature of the Referendum campaign and, therefore, we specifically examined the collective communicative networks that formed around Leave and Remain amongst MPs; (2) Given the potential of social media to provide a platform for individual politicians to personalize campaigns, we asked how far social media might disrupt traditional formal intra-party hierarchies? Did, for example, backbench or relatively unknown figures come to the fore in the EU debate? Our results indicate that whilst there existed a high degree of partisanship, interestingly, Remainer MPs tended to adhere to party networks resulting in a divided remain network. By contrast, the Leave network was more unified but also more porous. Within the networks themselves, the centrality of individual MPs did not always reflect their formal status.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-66
Number of pages18
JournalInformation Polity
Issue number1
Early online date29 Sept 2019
Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2020


  • EU Referenda
  • MP networks
  • Twitter
  • inter-party
  • intra-party

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Cathie Marsh Institute


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