Public Affairs: Researchers turn to web

Digital comms Edelman poll pinpoints scale of social media use by political staff.

One in five parliamentary staffers has changed their position on a policy based on something they read online, according to major piece of research into social media usage within Parliament.

Edelman spoke to 136 staffers working in the UK Parliament, plus a further 260 staffers in the EU Parliament, US Congress, French Assembly and the Bundestag.

The agency found that nearly every staffer used online resources for public policy research, and that more than half had first learned about a policy issue online.

Edelman's public Affairs MD Alex Bigg said the results had far-reaching implications for public affairs professionals.

'Our research demonstrates that for anybody wanting to influence the political process, social media simply can't be ignored,' he said.

'Whether it is websites, blogs, Facebook or even Twitter, such tools are playing an increasingly important role in supplementing and supporting more traditional means of political communication.'

In the UK, some 18 per cent of staffers admitted to having changed their position on a policy based on something they read online. In the US Congress the figure stood higher, at 22 per cent.

The BBC was cited by 19 per cent of UK staffers as the most trusted online source for policy analysis. In second place was The Guardian (13 per cent) and in third the House of Commons library (nine per cent). The most trusted blog for policy analysis was Conservative Home (five per cent).

Twenty-six per cent of UK staff said they used blogs on a daily basis to research policy issues, with a further 16 per cent using blogs 'a few times a week' to research policy. Meanwhile, ten per cent used Twitter at least once a day to research policy issues.

Overall usage of digital communications was judged to be greatest among US Congressional staff, and lowest in the French Assembly.

But the research indicated that use of social media among UK Parliament staffers was set to grow, as many staffers were still to be convinced of the effectiveness of digital communications.

The research found that perceived effectiveness of digital communications was highest in the US Congress and lowest among UK Parliament staffers.

- In the past 30 days, have you learned about a public policy issue for the first time online?

NO: 46%

YES: 54%

- In the past 30 days, have you changed your position on a policy issue, based on something you read online?

NO: 81%

YES: 19%

Digital Communication Usage Ranking
1. US Congressional
2. German Bundestag
3. European Parliament
4. UK Parliament
5. French Assembly
Based on survey of 396 international parliamentary staff by Edelman

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