Study: Canadians want to engage with government representatives online

woman on laptop - iStockPhotoYesterday, Fleishman-Hillard released the results of a public engagement survey which revealed that Canadians want to connect more with governments online. Conducted in August 2011 by Vision Critical, the study found that “54% of Canadians would engage more in conversations on government policy if there were ways to participate online.” 

This number was even higher for youth (aged 18-35) at 57%. Youth respondents indicated that they were also more likely to access a government service if they heard about it online – at 46% compared to 37% of overall survey respondents.

Social media is the key to citizen engagement

The online study, which surveyed 1,005 people also revealed that “a third of Canadians have an improved view of elected officials who use social media to engage with constituents.” So, it’s no surprise that many Canadian politicians are now creating a presence on Twitter and Facebook.

"Being present in social media is no longer an option for government," says Jennifer Torney, Senior Vice President of Fleishman-Hillard Vancouver. "Government organizations need to recognize the value in reaching out to the public through social media as an important aspect of meaningful citizen engagement."

So, how are social media tools like Twitter playing a role in conversations about the current Ontario provincial election?

Digital public affairs strategist and communications consultant Mark Blevis has been analyzing the online conversations using Sysomos. In a recent post on his blog, he said that "there’s little doubt Twitter will continue its dominance of online chatter about the Ontario provincial election. I’m tracking an average of 3761 tweets/day, roughly one third of the average number of daily tweets tracked during the federal election. Still, Twitter traffic about the provincial election accounts for 75% of the overall election conversation."

The Fleishman-Hillard study found that the younger demographic is said to be the “most influenced by social media in terms of their perception of elected officials.” For example, Youth were most likely at 49%, compared to 33% of general population, to favourably perceive elected officials who use social media.

Survey respondents were asked: "When you see that an elected official is using social media, to communicate with constituents, does this improve or worsen your perception of them?" Overall, 33% said that it did improve their perception. Meanwhile, 53% said that it had no impact, and only 14% said it worsened their perception.

Tell us your perspective. How can elected officials improve their conversations with the public online?

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Andrea Wahbe

Andrea Wahbe

Andrea Wahbe is a freelance B2B marketing strategist and corporate storyteller who has contributed to the growth of online media businesses in Canada, such as AOL and Google. By day, Andrea writes about digital media and marketing trends and tips for Canadian startups and SMEs. By night, she’s an analog book reader, master swimmer and experimental chef.  more

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