By Dr. Jaigris Hodson (M.A., PhD.)
On Wednesday, August 19, 2015, The Globe and Mail released an analysis of the current state of electioneering (#elxn42) in Canada. The article, written by Chris Hannay and titled Parties must turn to web to reach growing ranks of digital-only voters, showed that 30% of Canadians across age groups are now getting their information about politics solely online, though political parties are still spending the bulk of their advertising budgets on broadcast.
At GCI, we watch the shift of news consumption very carefully, studying the preferences of Canadians across demographics to understand how they get their information, so this article was of particular interest to our digital research team. We thought we’d extend Hannay’s analysis with a little research of our own. Using Sysomos ©, we looked at how the four party leaders have performed on digital media sources since the beginning of August. We found that while Harper leads in online discussions, the really interesting race is between Trudeau and Mulcair, who each dominate different types of online media.
Since the election was called, news about Harper has been shared across all media, including Twitter, blogs, forums and online news sources. Analysis reveals that this commanding lead is in part related to the Duffy scandal lighting up the airwaves, and partly due to the advantages of being the incumbent.
Trudeau and Mulcair, currently in a race to represent the alternative to the reigning party, each have 17% online share of voice, but lead in different media. Trudeau is more popular on online news sources and blogs, however, Mulcair edges out Trudeau on Twitter.
An analysis of Twitter hashtags supports this finding. The NDP (#ndp) are hashtagged in more than 40 thousand election related Tweets, followed by the Conservative Party (#cpc) hashtagged in over 32 thousand tweets and the liberal party (#lpc) in just over 29 thousand tweets.
Sentiment on Twitter also helps us to understand the current election story. Even when results relating to the current scandal are removed from the sample, Twitter sentiment about Harper and Mulcair are both twice as negative as they are positive, but Trudeau and Elizabeth May currently have almost equal positive and negative Twitter sentiment.
If we consider digital share of voice, we can see that the race is far from over. It is important to look both at individual platforms and also at the content of what people are saying on them to get the full picture.
Overall, an initial analysis of digital activity does not support the current polling, which suggests that the liberal party is in third place. Savvy politicians, therefore, should be taking a cue from Obama’s 2012 playbook, using data to microtarget their supporters on the platforms they are most likely to visit, spending campaign time and money where it matters most.