What big data reveals about the type of people who follow Australia's political leaders on Twitter

‘You in my world now.’ Picture: Getty Images

If you’re into what Bill Shorten has to say, you’re susceptible to stress, you often think about things that make you unhappy, but you’re not scared to take a risk.

But if Malcolm Turnbull’s your guy, you’re outgoing, compassionate and know a thing or two about art. You’re also pretty happy with how life’s ticking over for you right now.

And if that kind of sweeping generalistaion makes you angry, don’t blame us.

It’s an analysis you – as Twitter users – gave to that wonder of the new age, IBM’s Watson supercomputer.

Twitter marketing platform Socialbro, which specialises in pulling insights out of the billions of bytes of information that passes through social media every day, thought to team up with the PC that can win Jeopardy and invent recipes to launch a tool to analyse the psychological characteristics of a set of followers, trends or brands on Twitter with unparalleled depth.

Watson playing Jeopardy. Picture: Getty Images

It’s called Personality Insights, because it’s powered by Watson’s Personality Insights API. Clients like Adecco and Telefonica are already using it to build campaign strategies.

Why? Because according to PRNewswire:

A study by the team behind Watson’s Personality Insights API revealed that Twitter users with certain personality traits are 40% more likely to redeem a coupon and some are twice as likely to click through on Twitter Ad campaigns.

So that makes a lot of sense – companies can generate business by targeting particular types of people.

But the fun part comes when SocialBro offers to pull data from two sets of Twitter followers and get Watson to analyse them for us.

So we chose, naturally, Malcolm Turnbull’s followers and put them up against Bill Shorten’s followers and found out some surprising – and not-so-surprising – differences about the hardcore fan base. Let’s get started:

First, the big picture of what kind of followers each leader attracts

The raw numbers are:

We cut results from the 78,868 who follow both politicians, because there’s no way of telling if they’re primary Shorten or Turnbull followers. But just on that, you might note below that of Shorten’s followers, 65.18% also care about what Turnbull has to say. Of Turnbull’s followers, only 16.85% are watching Shorten.

So Turnbull’s mastered the social media a lot quicker than Shorten. That’s obvious. But SocialBro and Watson can drill down a whole lot deeper and compare on the types of people who follow Australia’s prime minister and the guy trying to present himself as the alternative.

Personality Insights can measure your personality according to your tweets across five key dimensions – Neuroticism, Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, Openness and Extraversion.

Both leaders have similar levels of followers who are Extroverted (34.4% Turnbull followers; 35.3% Shorten followers) and Agreeable (31.3% Turnbull; 26.6% Shorten).

Differences between the two groups worth noting can be found in the three other dimensions. Turnbull’s followers are more Conscientious and Open, while Shorten’s are more Neurotic. If you prefer the chart:

Let’s go a little deeper.


Turnbull followers are 68.8% conscientious.
Shorten followers are 51.7% conscientious.

What it’s measured on:
Achievement-striving, Cautiousness, Dutifulness, Orderliness, Self-discipline and Self-efficacy

What it means:
Turnbull’s followers were more driven, dutiful, persistent, bold and self-assured. Shorten’s followers were more organised.


Turnbull followers: 17.2%
Shorten followers: 30.9%

What it’s measured on:
Anger, Anxiety, Depression, Immoderation, Self-consciousness and Vulnerability

What it means:
Shorten’s audience scored higher meaning they’re more likely to be more fiery, susceptible to stress and self-conscious than Turnbull’s audience.

The largest variance was evident among Depression – 42.7% of Shorten’s audience thinks quite often about stuff it’s unhappy about, compared to 24.4% of Turnbull’s followers. Shorten followers are also angrier and more likely to be tempted by desires.


Turnbull followers: 31.3%
Shorten followers: 26.6%

What it’s measured on:
Altruism, Cooperation, Modesty, Morality, Sympathy and Trust

What it means:
Turnbull’s audience scored higher on all facets, with the largest variance evident among their cooperation – Turnbull’s audience is far more accommodating and less contrary than Shorten’s followers.

Shorten’s audience is more likely to be more cautious (“wary of other people’s intentions”) and a little bit more comfortable using every trick in the book to get what they want.

Both audiences ranked relatively high for empathetic and altruistic.


Turnbull followers: 82.4%
Shorten followers: 77.5%

What it’s measured on: Adventurousness, Artistic Interests, Emotionality, Imagination, Intellect and Liberalism.

What it means:
The vast majority of both leaders’ followers come across as philosophical, imaginative and willing to challenge authority. The only notable split can be found in their artistic interests – Turnbull’s Point Piper mates followers are significantly more appreciative of the arts, but less adventurous than Shorten’s followers.


Turnbull followers: 34.3%
Shorten followers: 35.3%

What it’s measured on: Activity Level, Assertiveness, Cheerfulness, Excitement’seeking, Friendliness, Gregariousness.

What it means:
Another one too close to call overall. But in the breakdown, Shorten’s followers were more laid-back, assertive and excitement-seeking. Turnbull’s were more outgoing and sociable.

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