Can Twitter predict the next pope?
As the College of Cardinals meets to pick a new pope, we examine how many of them use Twitter and whether that can help predict the next pontiff
Image credit: REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
As we all know, over in Rome the 115 members of the College of Cardinals are hard at work trying to pick a new pope. The official conclave began on Tuesday, at which time the cardinals were required hand over their smartphones, tablets and laptops, because they are not allowed to communicate with the outside world until a new pope is chosen. That means no phone calls, no emailing and, of course, no tweeting.
This got me to wondering just how many of these gents are tweeting in the first place. Also, would tweeting a lot, or having a lot of Twitter followers, be considered a positive or negative when considering whether someone would make a good pope? To find out, I got a list of the cardinals involved in choosing the next pope and looked to see who was even on Twitter, how much they tweeted and how many followers they had.
Based on my research, here now, are your tweeting cardinals:
These cardinals do tweet
|Cardinal||Number of tweets||Number of Twitter followers|
|Odilo Pedro Scherer||1,610||30,286|
|Wilfrid Fox Napier||816||7,043|
|Lluís Martínez Sistach||651||4,572|
|Sean Patrick O'Malley||359||15,868|
|Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez||313||3,712|
|Timothy Michael Dolan||235||97,222|
|Norberto Rivera Carrera||218||4,526|
|Francisco Robles Ortega||103||2,669|
|Antonio María Rouco Varela||99||677|
|Rubén Salazar Gómez||76||6,536|
|Donald William Wuerl||51||1,661|
|Roger Michael Mahony||40||4,536|
|Luis Antonio Tagle||8||2,673|
|Willem Jacobus Eijk||0||1,268|
Notes: Seemingly genuine Twitter accounts that I found for the cardinals who can currently vote for the pope (that is, cardinals under the age of 80). Follower counts valid as of March 12, 2013. Tweet counts shouldn't change until the next pope is elected.
As you might expect, cardinals in general aren’t big tweeters. Just 21 out of the 115 members of the College of the Cardinals have Twitter accounts (18 percent). Of those 21, the most prolific tweeter is Cardinal Odilo Scherer from Brazil, who’s tweeted 1,610 times, almost twice as many as the next guy, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi of Italy (910). One cardinal has an account but hasn’t tweeted at all, Cardinal Willem Eijk of the Netherlands. The average number of tweets from the tweeting cardinals: 280. Again, not a real tweeting bunch, this College of Cardinals.
If we look at the number of Twitter followers, we see that Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York is by far the most popular tweeting cardinal, with over 97,000 followers, well more than twice as many as the runner up in this category, Cardinal Ravasi, who has just under 45,000 followers. Cardinal Scherer, the cardinal who tweets the most, is the third most popular with 30,000 or so followers. The average number of twitter followers for the tweeting cardinals: 10,980.
There’s one more Twitter metric to consider: the number of mock twitter accounts for each cardinal. After all, comedians wouldn't waste their time mocking the guys with no chance of being pope, right? Now, I didn’t try to find all of the mock accounts for each cardinal, but, based on my casual research, it appears that the cardinal with the most mock twitter accounts, by far, is Cardinal Angelo Scola of Italy. I counted at least 10 Twitter accounts claiming to be his, almost all obviously fakes.
Does any of this tell us who will be the next pope? Probably not. But, for what it’s worth, if tweeting is considered an asset in the next pope (and maybe it should be, you know, to connect with the young people), then Cardinals Scherer and Ravasi seem well positioned. On the other hand, if the number of followers is a proxy for papal chances, then Cardinal Dolan could be the man. But the gamblers' money is on the guy with the most mock twitter accounts, Cardinal Scola. I guess the wise guys and the comedians are on the same page.
Who’s your money on in the papal horserace? Share your guess in the comments.
UPDATE: Looks like we have a new pope - and he doesn't tweet (yet). Jorge Mario Bergoglio, or Francis I. So much for Twitter-based predictions.
Read more of Phil Johnson's #Tech blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Phil on Twitter at @itwphiljohnson. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.