How social media got it right with Maha polls

The Assembly elections have proved that the parties that created the most positive buzz on social media also won the elections. Could it replace the traditional exit polls?

e4m by Abhinn Shreshtha
Updated: Oct 22, 2014 7:54 AM
How social media got it right with Maha polls

The Maharashtra state assembly elections are over and now the only question that remains is how the new government will be formed; who the BJP will partner with and who will be the state’s new CM.

In the build-up to the elections we saw how new platforms were being used by all political parties to connect with the electorate and spread their message. From Congress’ use of Whatsapp to constant tweets and Facebook posts by the BJP to the ‘Majha Nava Shiv Sena’ series of videos created by the Shiv Sena, it was an election that saw parties embrace technology and utilise it to the fullest.

Maha Elections: Political parties go tech-savvy in their electioneering

As with the Lok Sabha elections, social media was a cornerstone in the campaign process. Would it be far-fetched to assume that the party that generated the most buzz on social platforms also performed the best in the elections?

Maha Elections on social media: BJP outshines the rest

Social analysis agency, Simplify360 was tracking the social buzz around the elections. Vang Lian, Head of Research at the company pointed out the final seat share between the parties which was determined post the declaration of results was on similar lines with the social media buzz share.

Another social analysis firm, Meltwater tracked nearly 1,00,000 social mentions on the Maharashtra state elections on the day of the result and the succeeding day, of which, BJP again took the lion’s share. The statistics show that BJP saw the most positive conversation with most people expecting the party to win in the state since the morning of October 19 (the day of the counting of the votes).

But is this a real indicator or just a one off coincidence? We have asked Meltwater and Simlify360 for an analysis of the social buzz around the Haryana elections to see what the situation in that state was.

Meltwater, which has had previous experience in analysing social interactions around the US presidential elections and the UK general elections, feels social media is becoming a pretty nifty barometer for such events. “In most of these elections we observed that whatever the social media trends suggested were pretty much in line with the actual poling and results,” maintains Nitin Bhatia, Director (Agency Partnerships), Indian Subcontinent, Meltwater Inc.

An interesting outtake of the social analysis was that the Prime Minister saw a total of 2500 negative mentions as opposed to 1800 positive ones out of a total of 8,000 mentions on October 19 and 20. The percentage of negative mentions was higher than what had been seen in the run up to the elections. Overall, Meltwater said it saw over 78,000 mentions in English and more than 19000 posts in regional Hindi & Marathi language on the Maharashtra elections on these two days.

“As per our reports earlier, we saw BJP leading from the front on total mentions, Marathi mentions and Hindi mentions, as well as in terms of positive mentions. Seeing the final results, I won’t hesitate to say that social media trends are a very strong indicator to predict the winners,” said Bhatia. He points out to the keywords that were seen trending in the days preceding the election, which show that BJP was again the most popular among all the parties.

The traditional way of compiling exit polls through polling station interviews or outreach programs might be working for now but we have seen that they do not always give the most accurate results. With social media becoming more and more ubiquitous as the most common platform for the vox populi, perhaps it is time that political analysts, like their counterparts in the marketing and commercial sectors start turning to them to better understand the pulse of the common man. It might not give a completely accurate picture but it does seem to give a fair indication of what to expect. 

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