An unexpected number of voters turned out for Hong Kong’s Legislative Council election in September and delivered surprising results, thanks in part to Facebook campaigns by the city’s social media-savvy politicians. As the US presidential election nears, analysts are speculating about the potential impact Facebook may have on turnout, and who ultimately wins the race.
Hong Kong’s election may provide some clues. In Hong Kong, the “Facebook effect” pushed younger, more liberal, voters to the polls and led to an upset in what was once one of the city’s most conservative, Beijing-leaning districts.Like citizens in elsewhere in the world, some of Hong Kong’s 7.8 million residents have grown increasingly distrustful of their local television broadcast channel, and its politically allied newspapers.
So Facebook became the medium of choice for information when these voters were deciding who to support. Many candidates and political analysts published live broadcasts and creative short films, held realtime Q&As, and sent clips of debates on TV and radio, directly to Facebook’s 5 million active users in Hong Kong (link in Chinese).As a result, mainstream media outlets attracted smaller audiences, and did worse at predicting who would win. Some candidates claimed unexpected landslide victories while other candidates who were hot in the traditional opinion polls won only by a narrow margin, or lost.