Throughout the 2015 General Election many moments have been immortalised on social media. From ‘Ed Balls day’ to the moment David Cameron forgot which football team he supports to Ed Miliband on Russel Brand’s The Trews.
Every campaign movement and interview has been available for the nation to see in what was thought to be the first Social Media Election. With more active social media accounts across the country than ever before, it is not surprising that the Election coverage has been widespread, passionate and controversial, particularly amongst the younger generation.
The younger generation expect to be able to interact and engage with politicians on a human level, as oppose to the scripted media coverage of previous elections, social media facilitates this. They also expect accurate and instantaneous updates. Whilst this has led to a more informed younger generation, it has also led to social media coverage of the General Election being shrouded in controversy, due to the legality of broadcasting voting information in the media. An example of this was Nicola Sturgeon’s tweet announcing not only that she had voted, but who she had voted for.
With fewer than half of young people (44%) voting in the 2010 election, political parties turned to social media in an attempt to engage with this untapped demographic. Leading up to the election, a survey of 3000 18-34yr old Twitter users showed that 34% of them changed their vote due to something they had seen on Twitter.
On Election Day, Twitter and Facebook saw and encouraged users to talk politics, both in the lead up to the general election and on polling day. On Election Day alone, across the UK, around 3 million people used the ‘I voted’ button on Facebook, and the Twitter hashtag ‘#ivoted’ was used 2.2 million times. When the exit poll was announced it sparked a social media explosion, with around 4000 tweets per minute discussing the results.
These figures show that social media plays a big part in informing and influencing the public on political issues. Despite being billed as the first ever Social Media Election, due to growing social media coverage and the fact that over half of the UK population is now active on social media, the election results show that we must be aware that the social media demographic still is very un-representative of the UK voting demographic.