When I last checked in on the Saskatchewan election just two days after the writ was dropped, Brad Wall was the most mentioned leader and education the most talked about election issue. There are just 10 days left in the campaign. It’s time to see how things are going. All analysis was performed using Sysomos Heartbeat and MAP.

Twitter is the online hang-out

There’s a respectable amount of online activity about the election. Given the Twitter is the generally the most accessible real-time democratic media, it’s not surprising a majority of the chatter is taking place over that channel. At 88%, Twitter’s overall share of the online chatter related to the election is much larger than observed in other elections I’ve researched.

Facebook activity is lower than I expected, particularly since it’s a great community-building tool and should be used by candidates to build constituencies of support which can be activated when needed. Having said that, I’ve mostly observed opportunistic use of social media by politicians and candidates. That approach is extremely ineffective since it typically involves trying to build a community when a community is already necessary. I liken that to trying to get passengers into an airplane that’s already in flight.

The peak on October 25 in this graph reflects increased activity related to the leaders’ debate.

UPDATE 4:15pmET: The 7,424 tweets were issued from 1,007 unique Twitter accounts, suggesting an average of 7.4 tweets per account between October 10 and October 26.

Conversation plays a larger role in the online chatter

Also unusual is the distribution of tweet types. In most election research I’ve done, there’s been a respectable amount of original content published to Twitter and the conversation (represented by @reply in the graph) has been dwarfed by something I call The Amplifier Effect (represented by Retweets or RTs).

Essentially, there’s a greater degree of participation among those tweeting about the Saskatchewan election. I suspect this is made possible by the smaller amount of daily traffic and a more reasonable number of participation resulting in more signal, less noise. That is, it’s much easier for the digitally engaged to follow join a conversation that boasts an average of 500 (or fewer) tweets a day rather than trying to keep up with a flood of daily tweets like the roughly 5,000/day during the Ontario election and 12,000/day during the federal. I’ve typically observed conversation rates of 12-15% during election campaigns; 24% is unheard of.

The most active non-media tweeters are led by @LateNite72, @DarrenSproat and @SaskBoy.

Male-dominated conversation

This is where Saskatchewan starts to look like other elections I’ve researched. Online political discussions quite clearly attract more men (74%) than women (26%). Of course, as my gender boilerplate goes, the challenge with gender breakdowns of digital conversations is results are based only on accounts which disclose gender information or from which gender can be credibly determined by the disclosed name. Not everyone does that online. So, the results are based on a statistically relevant sample. The number of disclosing accounts is indicated in the graphs. Perhaps more women are involved using nondescript account names.

Brad Wall and The Saskatchewan party dominate online leader and party mentions

Wall is the most-mentioned leader in online conversation (53.9%), leading the second most mentioned NDP leader Dwain Lingenfelter by nearly 23%. There are two important things to remember about this graph, and others such as the party mentions graph:

  1. Mentions don’t necessarily reflect election outcome, only that Mr. Wall is being mentioned online more often than any other leader; and,
  2. This analysis doesn’t consider sentiment. That means, we can’t determine from this graph if Wall’s 53.9% share of mentions among the leaders is more flattering than Lingenfelter’s 21% share. There are some automated tools with use programmatic logic to determine sentiment. My experience is these tools don’t negotiate the nuances of language (such as context and sarcasm) very well. People-powered review is the way to go. Having said that, I don’t anticipate going through 7,424 tweets anytime soon.
The peak on October 25 in these graphs reflect increased activity related to the leaders’ debate.

The Saskatchewan holds a commanding lead of party mentions (73.2%).

Education is the most mentioned election issue

The six-most discussed issues to date are:

  1. education (25.9%, remains at #1 since the election was called)
  2. tax (16.5%, did not rank in the top six when the election was called)
  3. family (16.2%, down from #2 when the election began)
  4. natural resources (13.1%, did not rank in the top six when the election was called)
  5. agri-food (12.5%, down from #3 when the election was called)
  6. students (11.4%, did not rank in the top six when the election was called)

(Note: Percentages reflect share of mentions among the top six issues identified in the chart, not among all issues tracked during the election.)

All of the above issues were discussed more among men than women, which is consistent with my observations about gender analysis among participants. Gender is identified in two ways. The first is through disclosure in social media profiles (something not everyone does). The other is through determining gender by analyzing the account holder’s name where gender can be credibly determined by the name. The result is a statistically relevant sample for analysis.

The level of overall participation by women resulted in a gender-specific sequence that differs slightly from the overall issue sequence.

  1. education (48 mentions)
  2. students (29 mentions)
  3. tax (27 mentions)
  4. nat-resources (26 mentions)
  5. family (21 mentions)
  6. agri-food (15 mentions)

However, participation rates of women were higher tell a different story

  1. students (38%)
  2. education (31%)
  3. agri-food (29%)
  4. nat-resources (28%)
  5. family (27%)
  6. tax (19%)

Related analysis

I’ve done a lot of analysis on the use of digital and social media by politicians and in political campaigns. Here are some posts you may also find interesting:

You may also be interested in following my ongoing digital makeover series and signing up for my free digital public affairs newsletter.