Monday 14 September 2015

GE2015 and Social Media

Hitler wanna Orh Luak
Hitler wanna Orh Luakvideo by: Kennerve Goh
Posted by Fabrications About The PAP on Sunday, September 13, 2015

Popular on social media, but not at the ballot box
Silent majority — those who do not express views online — appear to be behind the swing towards PAP, says former NMP
By Hon Jing Yi, TODAY, 12 Sep 2015

The General Election results were in stark contrast with prevailing sentiment on social media sites as well as high attendance at the rallies of Opposition parties, analysts noted yesterday (Sept 11).

Photographs of the massive turnout at Workers’ Party rallies and long lines for Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan’s autographs dominated social media, but results from Polling Day — the People’s Action Party walked away with 69.86 per cent of the vote — suggest that popularity on social media does not necessarily translate to votes.

Former Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Siew Kum Hong said the silent majority — those who do not express their views online — appeared to be behind the swing towards the PAP. “Since the 2001 General Election, in every election the Internet seems to always predict big advances for the Opposition, so I am not surprised by the disconnect,” said Mr Siew, pointing to the Government’s responsiveness to voters since the last General Election, the passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Golden Jubilee as reasons for the PAP’s success.

Singapore Management University law don Eugene Tan felt that social media may also have played a part in encouraging undecided voters to take the “flight to safety”. “Much of social media predicted or encouraged voters to further erode the PAP’s electoral support, and I think that did cause a concern among the middle ground, whether the political realities would be radically different ... And I think there was this flight to safety, but of course that’s also impacted upon by concerns about regional insecurities and economic uncertainties as well,” said Prof Tan. Some of the more “extreme” messages online may have caused voters to digest the rhetoric on social media with more care, he added.

Dr Felix Tan of the SIM Global Education said social media is often used as a sounding board to “highlight problems that plague our society or a specific segment of Singapore society”. But some of these issues are “rather anecdotal and/or personalised, meaning it affects only a comparatively small segment of society and not the larger society per se”, he noted.

Associate Professor Alan Chong from the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies said the Internet as a platform is a “potential leveler of the playing field” for the Opposition. But when it comes to getting votes, the human touch may still count for more.

“If your candidates can go house to house, door to door, if he or she actually leaves a message for you to say please vote for me, I wish you well, these things can’t be done on social media,” said Assoc Prof Chong, adding that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s messages have been very effective.

“If you look at PM Lee’s messages, he appealed to the good old-fashioned advantages of keeping the PAP in power to ensure continuity in national security and economic prosperity. Some of the voters at the last minute probably thought, let’s not spoil the party, vote the incumbent. This last-minute messaging worked,” he said.


The lesson I've learnt from the GE results so far.... #vocalminority #silentmajority
Posted by SGAG on Friday, September 11, 2015

Online clamour v Polling Day reality
Social media is not an exact science, but ignoring it would be a big mistake
By Daryl Chin, Social Media Editor, The Sunday Times, 13 Sep 2015


Going by the People's Action Party's whitewash performance at the polls, did social media get it wrong or was it too effective a communication tool?

Since Sept 1, supporters of the various parties had been out in force. Not only did they throng rally sites, but they were also vocal in their opinions online.

From Nomination Day to Polling Day, about half a million Facebook users had 2.7 million interactions - meaning an election-related post, like, comment or share - on the platform. Twitter recorded more than 200,000 conversations around the general election during the same time period, surpassing all events in volume, with the exception of the National Day Parade.

But what were people saying?

Social media analytics service Meltwater, which uses an algorithm to trawl through the usual social media channels, as well as forums, blogs and YouTube comments to determine sentiments, provides a rough idea.

Specific to parties, the PAP had the largest percentage of negative comments, at 17 per cent, compared with the Workers' Party (WP) at 11 per cent and the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) at 14 per cent.

To be fair, however, the PAP also had the highest percentage of positive feedback, at 12 per cent, compared with the WP's 7.5 per cent and the SDP's 10 per cent.

But overall, negative conversations about the elections - at 11 per cent of total volume - far outstripped positive ones, which stood at 2.5 per cent. The sheer amount of dissatisfaction in cyberspace even convinced some politicians and observers.

First-time anchor minister Tan Chuan-Jin said that he had not expected such a big win, based on "sentiments" he picked up and what he read online.

Political pundits pointed to the massive turnout at WP rallies and long queues for SDP party chief Chee Soon Juan's autographs, and said these might mark a shift.

They didn't.

Did the pervasive negative sentiments online scare those sitting on the fence into voting for the ruling party?

Observers now point to a "flight to safety" response, which might have driven the middle ground towards a tried-and-tested refuge.

And this middle ground - comprising the silent or neutral majority - is huge. According to Meltwater, some 86 per cent of comments online were neutral in tone. Perhaps even more damning, the Facebook users who actively participated in election-related conversations made up only 12 per cent of the total number of active users in Singapore.

Mr Walter Theseira, a senior lecturer at SIM University, said online sentiment is not an accurate gauge for what happens at the ballot box. "There is an echo chamber effect on social media, as many people with the same sentiments gather. But that means that you don't hear from the majority," he said.

Would a better gauge, then, rely on what people look for, instead of what they say?

Based on the data he collected with Singapore Management University research fellow Ernie Teo, there was a surge of interest in the PAP on the Internet on Cooling-off Day. This was the first time searches for the PAP outranked those for the WP during the election season.

"People were interested in hearing what opposition politicians had to say at first, but when the sound and fury died down, they seemed to gravitate towards the PAP," he said.

But this is not to say that what happens on social media should be easily dismissed. It comes as no surprise to many that the best results for group representation constituencies were for those helmed by two of the most popular political personalities online - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

PM Lee has consistently been the most-mentioned or searched-for politician across all platforms, while DPM Tharman's rally speech earlier on Singapore's need for financial prudence was wildly popular.

Perhaps, then, the key takeaway is this: Despite all the metrics available, social media is far from an exact science, but those who ignore it do so at their own peril.


Elections, said Twitter's Rishi Jaitly, are the most prominent manifestation of the platform.

"With virtually no curation or censorship, it is like a national focus group - surfacing trends as they happen," said Mr Jaitly, the vice-president of media partnerships in Asia-Pacific and Middle East.

Aljunied, one of the most hotly contested wards, is unsurprisingly the most discussed. PM Lee is the most-mentioned party leader, followed by Dr Chee, the resurgent SDP chief.

The Workers' Party, however, was the most-discussed party. At the end of the elections, it is also the only opposition party to have a place in Parliament.

The way it has played out in Singapore echoes similar usage patterns in other countries like India, Indonesia and the United States. Activity spiked during hustings and rallies.

"Politicians and users alike are becoming more sophisticated this time round," said Mr Jaitly.

Another interesting parallel? The rise of comedy.

Top tweets this #GE2015 include upside-down political posters, awkward moments at the nomination centres and comparisons between cruise ships and the Titanic.

Now, who says Singaporeans have no sense of humour?

In the online sphere, many signs hinted that the scales would tip in the opposition's favour. There was the positive...
Posted by The New Paper on Sunday, September 13, 2015

200,000 #GE2015 conversations on Twitter
By Christopher Toh, TODAY, 13 Sep 2015

The General Election proved to be the hot button topic on Twitter, with a total of 200,000 conversations on the social media platform during the hustings (as at midnight on Sept 11), and 110,000 conversations on Polling Day itself through to the Saturday morning (Sept 12).

According to Twitter, activity in twittersphere spiked during the campaign rallies, both at night and during the lunchtime rallies – there were about 26 tweets per minute at the lunchtime rally on Sept 8. On Polling Day, there was a spike of 330 tweets around the time Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong delivered his thank-you speech to voters at Toa Payoh Stadium.

Mr Rishi Jaitly, Twitter’s vice president of Media Partnerships, Asia Pacific and Middle East, said: “Elections, of course, are a prominent moment, no matter what country you’re in.”

He added that there were some interesting trends in the way Twitter was used by the various political parties.

“The election in 2011 was Singapore’s first social media election,” he elaborated. “The conversation was vibrant but political leaders were just beginning to get into it. Now, you have these leaders using the platform, and the content of Twitter tends to reflect the overall public communications strategy of that particular person or party.

“In this elections, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was very vocal and visible on the platform. He’s at the centre of a lot of conversations about the People’s Action Party (PAP),” Mr Jaitly said.

PM Lee’s number of followers has doubled to about 215,000, since the start of the year.

Mr Dickson Seow, Twitter’s head of Communications, Asia Pacific, said: “(Mr Lee) has done very well and engaged with people thanks to his tweets. It’s not just about politics, it’s personal as well. That really played out really well. I think that’s something that the PAP has learned over the past few years, and how to cultivate that.

“(Mr Lee) is by far the most discussed politician online. So you can say that the PAP’s strategy was to ride on PM Lee. That’s seen both on Twitter and in the real world.”

On the other hand, Mr Jaitly observed that the Workers’ Party (WP) chose to be more focused on their party message on Twitter, while the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) had focused on tweets about their leader Dr Chee Soon Juan, who was the second most discussed political leader of the election. “It’s interesting to see this evolution of political stakeholders’ use of Twitter and how the organisations ensure that their Twitter strategy is in line with their broader strategy.”

Mr Seow added: “In the context of the elections, the leaders know how important (social media) is — they want to have their voice on social media as well.”

Mr Seow also noted how Dr Chee made his presence felt on Twitter through his rally appearances and speeches, which were followed on Twitter. “He’s a good speaker but at the beginning of the campaign he wasn’t in the top ranks. But he has come out of seemingly nowhere and come in at No 2 in the rankings (for the Top 3 Most Mentioned Party Leaders of #GE2015 on Twitter).”

Taking third spot on that ranking was Workers’ Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang. WP was also the most discussed political party on Twitter during the campaigning period.

At the start of the campaigning period, WP was 1.4 times more widely discussed than the PAP. But by the end of the campaigning period, the PAP had almost closed the gap on Twitter.

The SDP moved up to the third place in the Top 3 Most Mentioned Political Parties with a strong Twitter reaction for Dr Chee’s first rally speech in 15 years on Sept 3, as well as his lunchtime rally speech on Sept 7.

“We did an internal study and we found that more people come to Twitter because they wanted to see what the different views were,” said Mr Seow. “The users want to get a range of views so that they can make a more informed decision.”

Vivian tops Facebook's Singapore politician list on polling day
By Jacquelyn Cheok, The Business Times, 15 Sep 2015

VIVIAN Balakrishnan of the People's Action Party (PAP) has emerged as the "top performing" politician on Polling Day, coming ahead of even PAP secretary-general Lee Hsien Loong and Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan, going by Facebook statistics released on Monday.

The list, based on the number of unique persons engaging - via a post, comment, share or like - in Facebook content related to the candidates on Sept 11, put PAP's Tin Pei Ling in fourth place, and independent candidate Han Hui Hui in fifth.

On Dr Balakrishnan's top spot, SMU associate professor of law Eugene Tan said: "It was probably due to the controversy created by his Facebook post, originally uploaded on Sept 4, which continued to be auto-posted on Sept 11 and created, not surprisingly, an uproar among online users on Cooling Off day."

Dr Tan told BT the belief that the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC - in which Dr Balakrishnan and his team were the incumbents - would see a very close fight between the PAP and SDP also generated Facebook traffic as voters read content related to both Dr Balakrishnan and Dr Chee.

Facebook has become a critical tool for politicians to connect directly with citizens to talk about issues that concern them most and to humanise their stories, a Facebook spokesman said. This year, politicians had more advanced tools and technology at their disposal - video, mobile, analytics - than they did in 2011, added the spokesman.

"We saw Singapore political parties use infographics, pictures of leaders campaigning, inspirational quotes from their leaders, and videos to engage the public on Facebook."

Members of the public also took to the social media platform to debate issues they felt strongly about. Up to 54,000 people used Facebook's new "megaphone" feature to share that they intended to vote in 2015GE with their friends, while 225,000 people - that's 6 per cent of the 3.5 million active Facebook users in Singapore - created 550,000 GE-related interactions on Facebook on Polling Day alone.

SMU's Dr Tan said: "I don't think social media was the game-changer of the 2015 GE. It played a bigger role than it did in 2011 but it still hasn't quite shaped how Singaporeans voted. Given the strong strain of anti-PAP voices on social media that dominated the pro-PAP ones, social media should have contributed to further erosion of support for the ruling party."

Had Facebook and the likes made a difference, the PAP would not have attained their electoral win last Friday, Dr Tan said. "This suggests that social media remains very much an echo chamber and Singaporean voters are relatively discerning in separating wheat from chaff as they navigate vitriol on social media."

Interestingly, younger male voters (aged 25-34) were not found to be among the most active Facebook users in terms of GE-related interactions. Women and men aged 35-44 were the most active, followed by women aged 25-34. The next two groups were women and men, in the 45-54 age bracket, respectively.

According to the study, the most talked-about GE topics on Facebook were education; CPF and retirement; cost of living; transport; and Lee Kuan Yew. AHPETC ranked ninth, while SMRT came in tenth.

LOL. a friend tag me to this. #just4laugh hor
Posted by Fabrications About The PAP on Sunday, September 13, 2015

Social media and the eclipse of the opposition
Social media now lets activists and citizens speak directly to the Government about their issues. So why should voters elect an opposition candidate whose main qualification for office is that ability alone?
By Walter Theseira, Published The Straits Times, 16 Sep 2015

Much has been said about how unprepared the opposition (and even the incumbent) was for the massive swing in sentiment towards the People's Action Party (PAP). Some blame social media and the Internet for being an echo chamber, a comforting environment where those inclined to vote for the opposition were lulled into believing the majority of Singaporeans shared their sentiments.

I believe social media has a role to play in explaining why the PAP won with an unexpected landslide. However, my argument is different. Ironically, the rise of social media may have eclipsed the importance of voting the opposition into Parliament because social media has provided an effective means for individual Singaporeans to speak their views directly to those in power.

While social media has disrupted the Government's control over the national narrative, social media has also disrupted the opposition's claims to be the voice of Singaporeans to those in power.

Consider the situation when Mr Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam was elected to Parliament for Anson in 1981, becoming the first opposition MP in more than a decade. There was no Internet and no source of news other than the traditional print and broadcast media. For an individual Singaporean, the only way to publicly and visibly engage the Government was to write to the newspapers' Forum or letters pages and wait for the reply. It is no wonder that Mr Jeyaretnam acquired quite a reputation for publicly challenging the PAP.

But today the situation is very different. PAP MPs and ministers are accessible round the clock via their Facebook pages. The Government struggles to control the narrative online, especially when events go viral or capture public attention.

In recent years, bloggers and activists have completely stolen the initiative from the established opposition on issues such as immigration and Central Provident Fund reforms. Government missteps are brought to light by Singaporeans sharing Facebook pages and tweets, not by the opposition calling the PAP out.

Members of the public might have agreed with the Prime Minister's claim that the elected opposition was a "mouse in the House" only because the lions on the Internet were roaring louder than anyone else.

Why did the Internet activists- turned-politicians fare so badly in the elections, then?

Opposition politicians with social media and activist backgrounds - like Mr Roy Ngerng and Ms Han Hui Hui - were resoundingly defeated with some of the worst vote shares this election (21.4 per cent and 10 per cent respectively).

Some voters may agree that these activists are raising important questions. But far more voters were concerned that these candidates - and their parties - simply lacked the ability or credentials to capably manage town councils and discharge the responsibilities of an elected Member of Parliament.

The truth is that today, there is no need to pay for what you can get for free - since anyone can now raise an issue to the Government on social media, why elect a candidate whose main qualification for office is that ability alone?

Social media cannot be a substitute for an opposition presence in Parliament and on the ground.

The key function of an opposition in most parliamentary democracies is to provide an alternative potential government, thereby contributing to the stability and continuity of the nation.

Clearly, social media activists - and our present opposition presence - do not fulfil this function. But for many voters, having a voice that regularly grounds the Government in the reality of our lives, and brings the Government to task when things go wrong, may be enough at this stage in our political development.

The opposition can no longer justify their existence simply by claiming to be that voice - the people have taken that responsibility upon themselves.

The opposition may have to move beyond framing themselves in terms of being a "check and balance" in Parliament.

In a parliamentary system with a strong government, no opposition party can block or amend Bills or policies. The real check on the government comes from the potential that their policies and mandate will be contested, either at the ballot box or in the court of public opinion.

Weaker opposition parties, which rely largely on promises they cannot keep and claims of promoting the people's voice in Parliament, are simply unelectable, now more so than ever.

Social media has weakened their claim to speak truth to power, rather than strengthened it, by placing the power to contest the government narrative in the hands of ordinary Singaporeans. While the weaker opposition parties have a constitutional right to continue contesting elections by tilting at windmills, Singapore's political development demands better.

The writer is a senior lecturer at UniSIM College, SIM University.

TOC is getting rather ridiculous with their articles.Didn't they claim to be non-partisan? Instead of congratulating the...
Posted by Shut down TRS on Monday, September 14, 2015

TOC, you mean because we Singaporeans exercised our rights to vote and majority of us voted for PAP, shame on us? Seriously? Come, we clap for you. #GE2015
Posted by Fabrications Led by Opposition Parties (FLOP) on Sunday, September 13, 2015

Supporters seek to amplify PAP voice online
Ground-up initiatives and neutral sites help to balance political chatter on social media
By Pearl Lee, The Sunday Times, 20 Sep 2015

Shortly after Parliament heard in July that the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee was formed - a precursor to the general election - a People's Action Party (PAP) supporter sprang into action to start a private Facebook group and invited like-minded people to join it.

Named Silent No More - a reference to the oft-mentioned silent majority that supports the PAP and no longer wants to remain quiet - its early members sought to amplify the party's voice on social media during the elections. And they did.

Some members feel their role in calling out and correcting misinformation online played a small part in bringing about the PAP's landslide victory in the Sept 11 polls, which saw the ruling party get 83 out of 89 seats and 69.9 per cent of the popular vote, a swing of nearly 10 percentage points from 2011.

The group now has more than 5,000 members and describes itself as a ground-up initiative started by PAP supporters for fellow supporters. Its main administrator and founder, Mr Jaromel Gee, 25, wrote in July on its Facebook page that it aims to "circulate the correct information online".

"We will also be debunking falsehood about our leaders and the party, backing our claims from official sources," he wrote.

Mr Gee, who is a party member, declined to be interviewed but said the online movement is an individual effort not endorsed by the PAP.

While social media used to be the domain of anti-establishment voices, people like Mr Gee are part of a pushback in recent years as political discourse online evolves.

Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) senior research fellow Tan Tarn How sees the current online political discourse as one that is "more reflective of the ground". He said: "There is now a spectrum of views. In the 2011 elections, there was a bunching of anti-PAP sentiments."

The emergence of pro-PAP online spaces like Facebook groups Fabrications About The PAP and Fabrications Led By Opposition Parties, and several neutral online outfits, has also gone some way to normalise online political chatter.

"This is good for the ruling party because it dilutes the anti-establishment sentiments," he said.

Silent No More counts among its members PAP MPs such as Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin and Tampines GRC MP Baey Yam Keng.

In the weeks leading up to Polling Day, members monitored what netizens said online, tracked opposition candidates' rally speeches, and discussed ways to rebut arguments.

For instance, in one of the Workers' Party rally speeches, party chief Low Thia Khiang had asked how many Singaporeans were able to pay just $8 for a heart operation - a jibe at National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan, who had said in 2010 that he had paid that amount for a bypass surgery.

Members of Silent No More discussed that Mr Khaw did it through a combination of MediShield, Medisave and private insurance coverage, and encouraged one another to rebut online users who had made fun of Mr Khaw.

IPS' Mr Tan has also noticed a "guerilla-type activism" emerging: "If there is an anti-establishment comment in the Facebook page of a news portal, the first responses are often pro-establishment ones."

Digital management consultant Freda Kwok of QED Consulting, which has been advising some candidates on their social media strategy, said the more savvy ones have moved supporters online.

"The ardent supporters are ready to use their personal accounts to vouch for a candidate, lending their personal credibility to the cause," she added.

Trading and consultancy firm managing director Gerard Hooi, 49, a member of Silent No More, said: "In 2011, the PAP was getting bashed up badly online and no one did anything... With this group, it feels like people are saying that it is time to stop the nonsense."

Mr Baey finds a better balance in views online and described Silent No More, which he was invited to join, as a healthy development.

But he feels the discussion should ideally reflect a spectrum of views and not be skewed towards either end. "Social media users are discerning enough. If the discussion is dominated by pro-establishment voices only, it will lose its credibility too," he said.

GE2015: Social media use was high, but not as decisive for voters, IPS survey on media use finds

Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) Post-Election Conference 2015

Whispers, not shouts: A re-reading of the social media space
By Tan Tarn How, Tng Ying Hui and Andrew Yeo, Published The Straits Times, 4 Dec 2015

One of the puzzles of the recent general election in Singapore was why 10 per cent of voters swung back towards the People's Action Party (PAP) when many predictions based on social media saw the ruling party doing worse or not much better than in 2011. Were social media interactions not reflective of electoral sentiments?

In fact, a closer look at social media in the run-up to the election shows that social media content in 2015 was more pro-PAP than in the 2011 election.

Second, voters who used social media consumed and liked more pro-PAP content in 2015 than in 2011.

On the first trend, political content online in 2015 was more favourable towards the PAP in two ways. In recent years, more websites and Facebook pages whose purpose is to attack the opposition parties have come on stream. They include Fabrications About The PAP and Fabrications Led by Opposition Parties. Little is known about who started them, but in tone if not in substance, they can be as strident as the anti-PAP sites.

Additionally, a slew of more neutral, balanced websites have also emerged in the last two years, like The Middle Ground and These two quickly beat or equalled The Online Citizen and TR Emeritus, both critical of the PAP, in viewership. As earlier research from the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) showed, there is an increasing trend of the "normalisation" of online media. That is, political content in general online is becoming more like political content in general offline.

The second trend - of social media users liking pro-PAP content - can be seen most clearly in how voters gravitated towards pro-PAP content by "liking" political party Facebook pages. All the parties had more likes than in 2011, partly because more people used Facebook for election purposes in 2015. The IPS Study On Internet And Media Use During GE2015 showed that 70 per cent of voters used Facebook for election information this election, compared with just 22 per cent in 2011.

The big change is this: The PAP had leap-frogged the Workers' Party (WP), the most liked in 2011, and other parties in the last four years. During this period, the WP's likes nearly doubled, but the PAP's jumped by four times. By Polling Day, the PAP's number of likes was 164,000, over three times the WP's.

More evidence for the popularity of pro-PAP content can be found in the number of "shares" and "views". The most-shared PAP election video was that of Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam's rally speech on Sept 5 in Petir Road, shared over 7,400 times. In contrast, the WP's most-shared post, a notice about its first election rally, got only about 2,000 shares.

The viewership of rally videos gives a less clear picture, though. The most popular PAP video was that of DPM Tharman's speech in Petir Road, viewed 300,000 times on Facebook and 65,000 times on YouTube. WP chief Low Thia Khiang's Hougang rally speech of Sept 2 got 82,000 views on Facebook and 236,000 for three excerpts on YouTube. The video of Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan's rally speech in Bukit Panjang on Sept 4 had 114,110 views on Facebook (for an excerpt) and 150,000 views on YouTube.

The point we are making is that voter engagement with social media content comes in various intensities. It ranges from the most active type of engagement (that is, requiring most effort) to the most passive (requiring least effort). Writing comments or posts on Facebook, YouTube, websites and blogs are the most active forms of participation. At the other end, merely reading articles or watching videos online without doing anything else is the most passive form of participation. In the middle is liking or sharing or forwarding content. To focus on the most active while ignoring the passive forms of engagement is a mistake. While angry or rah-rah comments or posts receive a lot of attention, they do not reveal what the "silent majority" among netizen-voters are quietly doing in terms of liking and viewing.

In other words, we should not look at just the loudest voices on social media to infer electoral support trends, but at the more subtle - and perhaps more important - signals of voter interest and support shown by views, likes and shares.

All in all, the PAP's fan base on the Internet during GE2015 expressed itself as a chorus of whispers that would turn out to have more impact at the ballot box than the cacophony of shouts of more prominent, anti-PAP comments.

The writers are Senior Research Fellow and Research Assistants at the Institute of Policy Studies.

Swing voters who went to a party's rally during GE2015 are more likely to vote for the party whose rally they did not...
Posted by The Middle Ground on Thursday, January 28, 2016

Youth and social media - the message matters too
By Nadzirah Samsudin and Carol Soon, Published The Straits Times, 15 Apr 2016

The youth vote can have a powerful impact, making or breaking a politician's election campaign.

United States President Barack Obama secured more than 60 per cent of the youth vote when he first won the presidency in 2008. Ms Tsai Ing-wen, who won February's Taiwanese presidential election, rode on young people's political and economic frustrations.

Young voters played an important role too in Singapore's general election (GE) last year, which saw the People's Action Party gain an almost 10-percentage-point increase in its overall vote share from the 2011 election. At the post-GE press conference on Sept 12, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said: "I wholeheartedly thank voters of all backgrounds, races - without your support, we wouldn't have such a good result. We also successfully got many young voters' support."

Studies from around the world have established that social media is the main medium - the go-to source - for youth to learn about elections.

In January this year, the Pew Research Centre found that 61 per cent of respondents in the 18- to 29-year-old age group learnt about the 2016 US presidential election from social media. In Taiwan, a recent study by Shih Hsin University showed that more than 70 per cent of college students got their news from the Internet and only 20 per cent relied on television.

A survey on media and Internet use during GE 2015 by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), done after Polling Day, found that among respondents aged between 21 and 34 years (who fall into the youth bracket, according to the National Youth Council), social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were their top choice for election-related information.

But this does not mean that it is just enough for political parties to announce their plans and positions on social networking sites, or use these platforms to rouse support. Surveys of election-time social media usage by youth in the US, Taiwan and Singapore show up differences that point to specific ways in which social media can be used for political education and outreach.


Youth respondents in Singapore, like their counterparts in the US and Taiwan, said they relied on social media for election-related news and information. Yet, when asked which media they trusted more, most respondents picked mainstream media sources.

In any case, as mainstream media outlets also push their content out on social media, it is likely that some of the content encountered by young people on social media originated from the mainstream media.

This means that for now, social media can only be part of a political communications toolkit, and would not suffice as the main vehicle for political communications.

The IPS survey also showed that Singaporean youth used social media primarily as a tool of surveillance - to learn more of other people's views on elections. Although they indicated their "likes" on Facebook for pages or a post on candidates, political parties and election issues, they rarely performed actions that required more effort, such as producing or commenting on content election-related content on social media.

Thus, mobilising them through social media will be more challenging. This is unlike in Taiwan, where youth used Facebook and instant messaging platforms such as Line for organisation and mobilisation during the 2014 student-led Sunflower Movement, a protest against a trade pact with China. Their Facebook page, "Black Island Youth", which went viral and amassed over 20,000 "likes" within days, was used as a tool to disseminate information to their supporters.

In the US, a separate Pew study in 2012 found that beyond "liking" political content on Facebook, the youth would also post their thoughts on issues, share links that directed people in their online networks to political stories, and promote political material.


The differences in usage and engagement could be a function of the different political environments in the US, Taiwan and Singapore.

For instance, in the US, there is a high degree of disenchantment with capitalism and the political system. While it is still too early to comment on the ongoing presidential election, Democrat candidate Bernie Sanders and Republican candidate Donald Trump, who are riding on people's dissatisfaction, are proving themselves to be forces to contend with.

In Taiwan, youth mobilisation stemmed from their unhappiness with the Kuomintang's leadership, the party's close relationship with China and their growing socio-economic problems. Low salaries and high property prices have heightened the sense of helplessness and haplessness among graduates.

This does not necessarily seem to be the case in Singapore, if we go by another finding in the IPS post-GE survey. Singaporean youth demonstrated a strong sense of collective efficacy - 60 per cent believe that the Government will respond to citizens' needs if people band together and demand change. When asked what had influenced their vote, they said that it was the quality of parties and candidates in their constituency, and policy changes related to transport, housing cost and foreign workers.

What this suggests is that, like older voters, the young people's satisfaction with the state of governance and the quality of their candidates matter. Social media is a useful medium to convey messages on these topics.

Incoming President Tsai did this in Taiwan - her calls for democracy and transparency resonated with the young voters, and videos of herself explaining policies in a light-hearted manner were shared widely on Facebook.

In the US, Mr Sanders, the Democrat candidate, used his campaign to cast the spotlight on issues that strike a chord with American youth - college debt and inequality.

To conclude, social media can be important leverage for politicians. But the campaign messages broadcast via that medium must both resonate with their constituents and withstand their scrutiny. This holds for policy communications via social media as well.

Policymakers have to understand users' demographic profiles for different media and how various segments of the public feel towards an issue. They can then tailor the key thrusts of their message for each medium accordingly.

The platform is important but the message is what will provide impact.

Nadzirah Samsudin is research assistant and Carol Soon is senior research fellow at the arts, culture and media research cluster at the Institute of Policy Studies, National University of Singapore.

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