Nicola Sturgeon was the most popular UK politician on Twitter during the general election, data scientists said.

The SNP leader was 14 points ahead of Prime Minister David Cameron, according to analytics firm Adoreboard.

Mrs Sturgeon's Twitter handle received over 163,000 mentions, 71% positive. The Prime Minister's Twitter handle had 145,405 mentions, 64% positive, the researchers said. The SNP also gained more than 17,000 Twitter followers.

Dr Fergal Monaghan, a data scientist at Adoreboard who led the study, said social media played a critical role during the election.

He said: "Social media and the information available online has become a powerful enabler of democracy, levelling the playing field for smaller and newer parties.

"Top-down blanket canvassing like leafleting has been replaced by bottom up canvassing where politicians must listen to an electorate of tech-savvy and often political sceptics.

"This can only be a good thing for democracy, especially when you consider disenchanted non-voting demographics that may have felt unrepresented or unheard now have a louder voice who tend to be more likely to be users of social media."

Adoreboard data scientists have devised mathematical algorithms to examine more than 20 emotions expressed in tweets such as love, hate, anger, surprise, annoyance and trust.