Social media and election campaigns, in theory, should be the best of friends.
But something is amiss.
According to a first-of-its-kind survey conducted by Ipsos Reid, political engagement via social media just isn't happening. The poll reveals that a puny six percent of Canadians are actively using social networking sites to discuss politics, even with a major election looming overhead. (To contrast, earlier research suggests more than 40 percent of Canadians use Facebook, and that Canada overall is more plugged in to social media than any other country in the world.)
No surprise that age plays a factor: those aged below 35 are twice as likely to talk politics on the web than those ages 55-plus. Yet, the overall inactivity and disengagement is alarming across all demographics: with social media as the nearly perfect platform for political discussions, why isn't the buzz occurring?
Despite the fact that all political leaders have Twitter accounts (and Facebook and YouTube accounts), and that all sorts of political hashtags are floating around, the real-time information network is being actively used by only two percent of potential voters (Facebook activity is slightly higher). But this is where masses of Canadians should be collecting: the key elements of real-time discussion, publicness and open transparency, and the ability to address political leaders directly, creates the ideal environment for potential voters to weigh in on an election campaign.
But it's not happening. Is this the fault of social media? Of politicians? Or of Canadians themselves?