The most interesting aspect I’ve noticed of this election is that it’s the first time social media has played a major part in gauging the opinions of voters.
Every day we see a the latest results from an internet poll or a stream for trending tweets discussing the election, but is it actually making any difference to what will happen on May 6?
Sadly I don’t think it will, but I find the subject rather confusing so bear with me as I explain why.
Firstly, if we look at the daily polls that news agencies release looking at the parties’ popularity we can see a number of issues.
Let’s look at today’s YouGov poll. This poll suggests that a hung parliament will be the overall result in the election with the Conservatives in first place, Liberal Democrats in second and Labour in third.
While this is fine and actually the general theme of most of the political polls today, the issue I have is related to the media who report these results, as last week we saw the Liberal Democrats retain a lead in nearly all of the polls.
However many polls, including this one used on Sky News, were seemingly altered to suggest the Conservatives were in the lead.
The question here of course is to ask if these polls actually reflect the voters’ opinions.
Today’s YouGov poll is the result of a survey conducted of 1,466 individuals over the weekend, a tiny amount of people when you consider that millions are set to vote in the election.
What makes me question the result of the YouGov poll even more is facebook.
You see facebook also conducted a poll last week that 145,700 people voted on called ‘Who won the second leaders debate’
This poll saw Nick Clegg win with 48% of the vote compared with David Cameron’s 27% (incidentally YouGov 1,110 voters on their version of the same poll gave David Cameron a 36% victory over Nick Clegg’s 32% and Gordon Brown’s 29%)
So polls are polls, more people vote on facebook than they do on YouGov, does it really make any difference?
If all of the individuals who voted in online polls vote on May 6, it makes quite a big difference actually.
Another example of social media’s influence on this election was showcased on Thursday, just before the second leaders’ debate.
On Thursday morning, for those of you who may have missed it, a number of newspapers went on the offensive against Nick Clegg, striking him with one of the biggest displays of non-stories that the mass media has ever seen.
This attack stoked a response from twitter, which seems to have become the weapon of choice for social media users, who set up a hash tag named #nickcleggsfault and watched as hundreds of thousands of users proceeded to claim all manor of ridiculous events were the fault of the Liberal Democrat leader. My own personal attempt was the following tweet:
“It is #nickcleggsfault that Charlie Chaplin once came 3rd in a Charlie Chaplin look-alike contest.”
This should be irrelevant but if all of the people who joined in the fan of the #nickcleggsfault twitter trend go out and vote on May 6, we would actually see a big difference to the end result.
Unfortunately, from my understanding at least, even if Nick Clegg was to receive a landslide victory in the election, it would mean he would lead a hung parliament, rather than form a Liberal Democrats government, as this is the way our electoral system actually works.
While this article may not influence your voting intentions, I hope it highlighted the rather fascinating knowledge that social media is growing bigger and potentially more influential by the day to the extent where social media reflects the real opinions of the voters.