Thursday 5 February 2009


Yesterday Facebook celebrated its fifth birthday. The social networking tool allows people with similar interests to join groups that reflect those interests, and, of course, in many cases these interests are political. There are groups, official or unofficial, that represent all of Northern Ireland's main political parties on Facebook.

The membership of these groups differs widely, though, and they show a picture of the support amongst young people (Facebook's most usual demographic) for the parties that is although far from scientific, interesting nonetheless.

Yesterday, on Facebook's fifth birthday, the membership of the groups was:

  • Sinn Féin – 2259
  • Ógra Shinn Féin – 419
  • Republican Sinn Féin – 373
  • Greens in NI – 291
  • DUP – 122
  • UUP – 92
  • SDLP – 76
  • SDLP Youth – 65
  • Alliance Party – 61
  • Queens University DUA – 38
  • TUV – 2

It seems that the Young Unionists have no group on Facebook. Although Queens University DUA does not represent all of the DUP Jugend it is a sort of youth wing of the party. The list excludes branch groups, or apparent mirror groups – it shows the membership only of the principal groups for each party.

The overall picture is a stark one. Amongst young people it seems that Sinn Féin is far and away the most popular party. In fact, with 80% of the total, republican parties are the outright winners, with the Greens unsurprisingly following. The entire unionist support (7% of the total) is less than that of the Greens.

Many people are members of several groups, which inflates their apparent support. But this works equally or unionist groups as for nationalist groups.

The low level of support on Facebook for the SDLP, the unionist parties, and especially the TUV, may reflect the age profile of those parties' supporters. Bu today's Facebook supporters are tomorrow's voters, so these parties should start to worry.


Catholic Observer said...

A similar pattern emerges in the Bebo (whose users are mostly teenagers):

Sinn Fein-1,830 friends
Ogra Shinn Fein-1,123 friends

SDLP Youth-446

Greens NI-67

DUP Supporters Club-18

Young Unionists-18*

Traditional Unionist Voice-14

*There is also a West Tyrone UUP party page, with 12 friends, none of whom appear to be actually resident in Tyrone. SF West Tyrone has 104 friends while Ogra SF West Tyrone has 392. Interestingly, the UUP have plastered their page in banners of 'Were (sic) British and Protestant'. What on earth was David Camshrón thinking of?

Horseman said...

Thanks for that, Catholic Observer. It adds a little bit more credibility to my slightly threadbare thesis (well, I did say that it was far from scientific).

The enormous dominance of SF in both Facebook and Bebo is strange - do unionists use some other sites? MySpace, maybe?

Catholic Observer said...

Myspace is dominated by Americans. Few Unionists or nationalists would use it. SF have a page up but it appears to be dominated by Irish-Americans. Though I did find a UUP Cllr for Ballymena, a certain Neill Armstrong, who boasts a total of 2 friends: the obligatory Tom and the Brookdale Ireland Club.

Anonymous said...

Ogra sinn fein have another page on facebook, but you have to add them they are sitting on 900, also that ogra shinn fein page has been deleted several times as has the bebo page. God knows how many there would be if the Ogra shinn Fein pages had been left alone

Anonymous said...

Are you lot for real , my da is bigger than your da ,grab life with both hands do not let your self be brain wash by out date tribal paranoia ,and now for a wee dig,maybe the prods are out working and dont have time to join facebook etc , or they work when they are at their firms computer not surf?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Unionism don't like computers, they are fond of flat earth ideas, isn't that right sammy, or Ian Og, or Iris? that many lol.