MPs reluctant to use social networking to engage constituents

MPs are increasing their use of technology to communicate with constituents, but the focus is still on top-down instead of interactive communication, a new...

MPs are increasing their use of technology to communicate with constituents, but the focus is still on top-down instead of interactive communication, a new report has said.

The Hansard Society surveyed 168 MPs on their use of the internet and social media, and found 92% use e-mail and 83% have a personal website. But just 11% of MPs blog, 6% use instant messaging to communicate with constituents and 23% use social networking sites like Facebook.

The report says that MPs' focus in the use of IT remains largely on promoting themselves, by reporting what they've been doing in the House of Commons or in their constituency.

"British MPs appear more motivated to use the internet as a tool for their own (and their parties') re-election, rather than as a tool for seeking views, true engagement or opinion forming," it said.

Attitudes to new technologies are also dependent on how large a majority an MP had at the last election. Those with smaller majorities are more likely to use IT to communicate.

Many MPs had found adoption of social media brings challenges, with workloads increasing, more training needed, more funding needed for better hardware, and the difficulty of establishing whether those they are communicating with are actually constituents.

Younger MPs and female MPs are more likely to use social networking. Male MPs are more likely to use blogs, which are seen as top-down forms of communication, with less engagement involved, because many MPs' blogs don't have the facility to leave comments.

"The more interactive or real-time the medium, the less likely that it will be used by MPs to communicate with their constituents," the society said.

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