Well, I thought it was time to resurrect an activity I last did a number of years ago – in 2011 - during an Ontario election campaign. I tracked the number of Twitter followers each party leader had during the course of the election to see if the electoral outcome was correlated with social media presence as measured by the number of Twitter followers. I am going to do the same with the current federal election.
The week before the October 6th Ontario election, I had McGuinty (Liberal) with a 44 percent share of party leader Twitter followers, Hudak (Conservative) was next with 30 percent and then Horwath (NDP) at 21 percent and Schreiner (Green) at 6 percent. (See my September 28th 2011 post on Northern Economist at ldimatte.shawwebspace.ca/blog/archive/2011/09/). These shares were remarkably stable in the month leading up to the October 6th election.
McGuinty of course won the election albeit with a minority and the ranking of the parties in terms of seats followed the order of this Twitter ranking. McGuinty won the election with 42 percent of seats (and did so with 36.7 percent of the popular vote), Hudak’s party garnered 31.6 percent of seats (with 35.5 percent of the popular vote) and Horwath came in with 16.8 percent of seats (22.7 percent of the popular vote).
Of course one can debate as to whether Twitter had any effect at all on the Ontario election. On the one hand, one could argue that the number of Twitter followers simply measures core support and bears little relation to shifts in voter intentions. On the other hand, if there are changes in the number of followers in the wake of major gaffes or debate performances, then Twitter may indeed pick up shifts in voter intention.
So what do the federal party leaders look like in terms of their Twitter followers? Well, I am a little late off the mark in starting this given that I was out of the country when the election was called but Figure 1 shows what the number of Twitter followers was for each of the federal party leaders at about noon on August 13th, 2015. Harper leads the pack at 866,000 followers followed by Trudeau at 711,000. Surprisingly, third place is held not by Mulcair, but May with 168,000 followers. Mulcair comes next with 156,000 and then Duceppe with 86,100.
Figure 2 takes these numbers and constructs a percentage distribution of these Twitter followers– Harper has 44 percent followed by Trudeau at 36 percent and then Mulcair and May have about 8 percent each (due to rounding) with Duceppe last at 4 percent. Needless to say, these numbers would suggest that the race is not a close three way race as indicated by assorted polls to date – if anything it is at best a two way race between Harper and Trudeau. Still, we won’t really know til October 19th whether this was indeed the case or not. In any event, I will post an update of the numbers in a few weeks. This can be a fun way of dealing with what is going to be a long couple of months of electioneering.