IBM's Watson has uncovered the love that unites Bill Shorten's and Malcolm Turnbull's Twitter followers

Our next leader? Picture: ABC TV

IBM’s supercomputer Watson has had a look at the Australian federal election campaign and with a week to go, it reckons Malcolm Turnbull’s Twitter followers are feeling better about things than Bill Shorten’s.

Analytics company Audiense partners with Watson to break down sentiment among Twitter users. By analysing the language used in their tweets, Watson can identify an amazing variety of personality traits.

For example, a study of the language used by Shorten’s followers shows they are a bit more neurotic than Turnbull’s followers. They’re more likely to be expressing anxiety, fear, moodiness, worry, envy, frustration, jealousy, and loneliness in their tweets about the ALP leader.

Turnbull’s audience rates higher on agreeableness, openness and conscientiousness – three of the four traits that have a positive impact on happiness levels. So Turnbull’s audience are more likely to be happy than Shorten’s.

For a study of how Turnbull was faring compared to Shorten, Watson eliminated any Twitter users who followed both leaders. In other words, it focused on the hardcore supporters. That left it with 9440 Turnbull followers and 3138 Shorten followers.

Overall, it found there wasn’t a lot to separate them:

The Conscientiousness mark shows a person’s tendency to act in an organised or thoughtful way. In this case, Turnbull’s supporters show signs of being more organised and structured, being more driven, dutiful and persistent than Shorten’s followers:

The strength of the “openness” figure (87.6%-89.1%) amongst both sets of supporters is notable, especially with polls putting the two in a virtual dead heat right now. That could mean there’s still a lot of swinging votes out there – at least in the wings of social media users – waiting for the right call to arms.

But the drilldowns into categories such as Needs and Affinities revealed some interesting traits.


And when it comes to needs – or what followers look for in a party or party leader – Shorten’s followers are attracted to structure, challenge and stability:

They also crave a bit more excitement, whilst Turnbull followers seem a bit more rounded.


This is where it gets interesting.

Watson found that Shorten’s followers are die-hard Labor supporters and genuinely interested in the party.

Those that actively talk about Shorten also count Julia Gillard, Penny Wong, Anthony Albanese and Tanya Plibersek as their next most followed.

Those that actively talk about Turnbull veer off the rest of the party and prefer to listen to ABC journalists and former Labor PMs Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard.

This is shown again in the breakdown of how interested each leaders’ followers are in their respective parties, where Shorten followers were almost three times more likely to keep up to date with their preferred party.

Of Turnbull’s supportive tweeters, 17.64% (1,665) follow the Liberal Party. Of Shorten’s supportive tweeters 47.3% (1,484) follow the Labor Party.

So if it were a Twitter election it would be between Turnbull’s personality and Shorten’s party.

The big question – is it representative of the nation? For the answer to that, you might note all follow @annabelcrabb with equal enthusiasm.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

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