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On Wednesday, millions of South Africans took to the polls for the country’s fifth democratic national election. While the results hardly seem likely to throw up any serious surprises, the election important in at least one very serious respect: it was the country’s first time real-time, tweeted election.
But how accurately did the online conversation reflect what was actually happening at the polls?
Not very, as it turns out. According to online insights and monitoring company BrandsEye, which has been tracking online conversation around the elections for a good few months now, South African ruling party, the ANC, still dominated conversation, but things are very different among its opposition.
The company’s tracking suggests that the ANC occupied 48.7% of the conversation. The next largest party was the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) with 17.9%, followed by official opposition party the Democratic Alliance (DA) with 15.3% and finally Agang with 2.4%. The remaining 15.3% of online conversation was occupied by the less popular political parties and the elections in general.
While these parties created the majority of online conversation, BrandsEye points out that their respective shares have little correlation with the voting intent people expressed.
Using crowd-verified data, BrandsEye says that the intent to vote for the top four most-mentioned parties online resulted in 40% of South Africans expressing their intention to vote for the ANC. Thirty-four percent meanwhile expressed their intention to vote for the DA, 24% for the EFF and two percent for Agang.
“When we start to look at the regional data, we start to see a more in-depth analysis of the sentiment towards the parties online,” says JP Kloppers, CEO of BrandsEye. “For example, in the Western Cape, the ANC sees a split of about 45% positive sentiment towards the party, 55% negative; whereas the DA sees 64% positive and 36% negative sentiment towards their party. Alternatively, in Gauteng, the ANC sees 48% of online conversation expressing positive sentiment towards the party online, and the DA sees 84% positive sentiment – a high percentage we may have expected to see in the Western Cape rather based on what we know of the offline election data.”
“We do have to keep in mind the different South African demographics present on social media in South Africa when analysing our online data,” he continues. “It’ll be very interesting to see the outcome of the election this year and to see the similarities and differences which the online story has told.”
Conversation around the election reached its peak on election day, with 47 717 mentions.
Image: Jauretsi via Flickr.