NZ leg of global research into election social media

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington researchers are conducting the New Zealand leg of an international project to analyse how political actors use social media to target, inform, interact with, mobilise and pursue voters in elections.

A hand holding a cellphone with the Twitter logo on the screen

Focusing on the final four weeks of the 2020 New Zealand general election campaign, Dr Mona Krewel and Professor Jack Vowles from the University’s Political Science and International Relations programme will be making their New Zealand Social Media Study findings and accompanying commentary available for free republication under Creative Commons.

Dr Krewel, Professor Vowles and the team they lead will publish weekly findings from their content analysis of the most salient campaign topics, the dominant political actors in the parties’ campaigns and their campaigning strategies on social media.

The data will expand each week, with one week’s worth published the first week, two weeks’ worth the second, and so on, becoming more statistically substantial as the project proceeds.

“The New Zealand Social Media Study allows us to make evidence-based contributions to debates about the quality of democratic discourse in the general election,” says Dr Krewel.

“The impact of digitisation on campaigns around the world is still growing; orchestrated operations by social media bots and fake news are increasing. Meanwhile, many citizens live in closed social media filter bubbles and echo chambers, with massive implications for democratic discourse. This has led many scholars to proclaim we live in an age of post-truth campaigning.

“This project was initiated during the 2019 European Parliamentary election, when political scientists from 12 countries analysed the internet and social media campaigns of mainstream and niche parties to detect general patterns and trends across countries, while also identifying national idiosyncrasies.

“The original team is now looking to increase their country sample and continue the project globally under the title Digital Election Campaigning Worldwide (DigiWorld). They approached us to join and we didn’t hesitate to say yes, recognising the importance of this research.”

Shaped by the experience of COVID-19, New Zealand’s 2020 general election will be like no other before it, says Professor Vowles.

“We have already seen examples of ‘fake news’, sometimes even communicated by politicians and the mainstream media. Monitoring the parties’ social media communications, we hope to confirm that, for the most part, they will campaign responsibly.”

Voting for the general election opens on Saturday 3 October and closes on Saturday 17 October.

The New Zealand Social Media Study findings and commentary will be available at on:

  • Friday 2 October (data from 17–23 September covering one week)
  • Friday 9 October (data from 17–30 September covering two weeks)
  • Friday 16 October (data from 17 September–7 October covering three weeks)
  • Monday 26 October (data from 17 September–17 October covering four weeks

Please note, the page will not be live before 2 October.