The General Elections in 2014 and five assembly elections are just round the corner. And as expected, the political parties are using various means to reach out to the voters and to put across their agenda. Social media has emerged as one such primary medium. As such, the question that has emerged is whether social media can influence the voters, and the election results per say. Various studies conducted to study the impact, including one by IAMAI-IMRB do suggest that social media indeed will play a role in influencing elections. To what extent, is however, a matter of debate.
Having said that, there is a general consensus that social media is likely to assist or help a political campaign rather than do any harm. In a nutshell, social media is expected not only to get important communication across but also reach a wide spectrum of individuals belonging to various parts of India, and having differing demographic characteristics. According to an IAMAI-IMRB estimate, investing in various social media initiatives could lead to a vote swing of around 3%-4% among the social media users in the country.
With rising Internet penetration in India, especially due to adoption through mobile phones, social media is likely to influence a sizeable number of Indian voters in some way or the other. Internet users are in turn likely to persuade other non-Internet users to align themselves to a particular political ideology. Therefore, the expected impact is also wide in terms of reach. Of course, in terms of the absolute impact, it is difficult to decipher, since it is the first occurrence when social media will be used actively for political gains.
Globally though, social media has had a huge impact during elections in other countries. According to a report in huffingtonpost.com, the demographics during the US Presidential elections in November 2012 showed that Barack Obama carried the voters in the 18-34 age range, the reason may lay within the strategy employed utilising social networks. The US President Barack Obama, as he did in 2008, brought the message to where the electorate was having the conversations — Twitter and RSS feeds.
Many of our political leaders from across political parties are also on social media, and very active at that, with a huge follower base. By the look of it, these followers may easily translate into votes but that necessarily may not be the case at the ground level.
In this issue of Thinking Aloud, we have attempted to gauge from experts, whether social media indeed will play a role, or it is just a bubble, waiting to burst. Elections in India are complex, and fought on issues keeping in mind a larger social fabric of the country.
I sincerely hope you enjoy reading this issue, and will drop us a line with your own opinion on this much debated issue, which has got everyone talking.