Why social media won’t win the election (this time)

In the few years since a new generation of social media have transformed our idea of staying connected and reaching out to others, the online world has quickly turned into a political arena, writes Dr Jens Binder.

The 2008 US presidential elections, the YouTube elections, and the role of Twitter and other services during the Arab Spring are just two of the most prominent examples. It is to be expected that from now onwards every major election will be run, scrutinised, analysed and commented upon offline as well as online. Indeed, analysts have been quick to find social media metrics such as link shares and retweets on Twitter to provide further measures of conventional mass media campaigns such as the party leaders’ TV debate.

Although the trend is clear – there is no going back to the era before social media – it is very challenging to ascribe specific politics-related effects to media use. In the following, some of the likely and not so likely benefits of social media engagement on the side of political parties will be considered. Continue reading

Political Storytelling and the Land of Make-Believe

Political storytelling

Dr Kevin J. Hunt is a senior lecturer in Visual Culture

Politicians talk a lot. Communicating clear ideas and workable policies to voters is key to winning an election and an inevitable part of political rhetoric relies upon telling stories. Representing a policy through a narrative description is a way of personalising an issue and perhaps helping a potential voter relate to an idea that might otherwise appear abstract. This is why politicians often recount how they met someone ‘just the other day’ who is due to benefit from their party’s policies and why, in live events, the candidates try to remember the names of audience members to indicate they are listening and responding to a specific situation affecting a real person. The aim is to show that a vote for that particular party will deliver a happier ending than any of the alternatives on offer. In other words, politicians work hard to construct narratives that they hope the electorate will believe in, repeat to other people, and vote for. Continue reading

David Cameron and the televised election debates

Dr Matthew AshtonHere’s what Dr Matthew Ashton, an expert in politics and the media at Nottingham Trent University, feels about David Cameron’s handling of the TV election debates.

“The handling of the TV debates has been a perfect lesson in how not to manage the media. Cameron’s inability to commit, along with his constant shifting of the goal-posts has just served to alienate the major broadcasters and exasperate the public.

“Cameron would have been better advised to have refused the idea of debates either late last year, or in early 2015. While this would have run the risk of having him followed everywhere for a couple of weeks by a giant chicken, it might have been better in the short-term than this torturous process and demand and counter-demand.

“He’s also been haunted by his statements from 2010 about the importance of debates to the democratic process. Nothing significant has changed between then and now apart from the fact that he perceived the debates to be electorally advantageous to him then, but not now. What he really seems to fear is some new version of Cleggmania (Mili-mania) where Miliband reveals hitherto unexpected reserves of charisma and verbal dexterity.”