As the last few weeks have shown, in politics, public perception can change in an instant. New Zealand has seen the rapid rise and fall of Todd Muller and corresponding changes in popularity for National. Labour had a tough time with coronavirus leaks and escapees but took the lead again as National floundered. Now that Judith Collins has been appointed National leader, things may change yet again. With the election only months away, there’s no clear frontrunner just yet.
That’s why politicians, party leaders, and other political stakeholders are looking for insight into public sentiment. Much as we’d like to imagine that everyone votes based on a well-researched, logical assessment of policies and facts, voter decision-making is often influenced by perception and the wider conversation – fair or not.
And these days, that conversation isn’t just happening around the water cooler or at the dinner table, it’s happening online. Posts about politics, comments on news stories, likes and shares – it’s all part of our political discourse in 2020.
Like corporations, political parties around the world are turning away from traditional polls and looking for insight from conversations on social media. It makes sense – unlike a one-off phone poll that may include answers from a small segment of the population at a specific time, millions of Kiwis use social media to share their thoughts each day.
Monitoring those thoughts offers real-time information with far more depth than a poll – you can see how people feel about specific issues, parties, or people, and look at trends over time. It’s a thoroughly modern way to get valuable insight into what you’re doing right – and wrong.
Conversation monitoring can help you drill down into perceptions about specific news stories or hot-button subjects. Issues that seem insignificant may turn out to be seriously important to certain groups, a party that seems to be on the rise may be less popular than they imagine, a story that seems negative may be largely ignored – public perception is not always easy to predict.
The sort of in-depth insight that comes from social media monitoring can help political parties not just tailor their messaging, but also make changes to their policies. In an election year, having access to real-time insight is a game-changer, allowing political parties to make changes before their public standing is seriously damaged. It’s not about blindly following online trends, it’s about aligning their politics to match public interests. After all – politicians are elected to do just that.
Of course, even if you agree that keeping track of online conversations is important, it can seem impossible. With millions of Kiwis liking, sharing, commenting, and creating content every day, you can’t just scroll through your Facebook feed to find out what people are saying.
If you’re an armchair pundit, Zavy’s free Election Tracker does the legwork for you, analysing thousands of online conversations around specific political topics so you can see who’s leading on social, the top posts of the week, and see the net social sentiment for each political party.
For political parties working toward an election, gaining insight and seeing trends is incredibly valuable. And it’s proven too – during the last election, Zavy was able to predict Jacinda Ardern’s win, even though many saw her as an underdog. Of course, we couldn’t quite predict the pandemic that would end up defining her time as Prime Minister. Our latest tool, Radar, allows you to go even deeper, analysing millions of online conversations around any topic – political or otherwise - and boiling them down into measurable, clickable datasets. You can view the total number of likes, comments, and shares related to a topic, person or brand, and – crucially – see the emotions it’s driving and whether the overall conversation is negative, positive, or neutral. You can even sort by date to see trends over time and examine the outcome of a certain story hitting the media.
As we hurtle towards this year’s election, anything’s possible. Between now and September 19, the leading party may change, new stories and issues will arise, minor parties will have their own scandals and wins, and public discussion will continue. And if you’re in politics, being in on that conversation is essential.
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