The 2019 federal election campaign is in full swing with mainstream media dominated by all the various twists and turns. While politicians are somewhat able to shape the narrative on these outlets, the conversation on social media presents a different story. So, aside from spruiking the Democracy Sausage through the unofficial hashtag #AusVotes19, what’s happening on social?
We took a closer look at the conversation on Twitter to see what Australians really think about the 2019 election campaign so far.
Controversy rules over Policy
In traditional media we are seeing a mix of both policy announcements and controversies. In the social sphere though it seems that controversies, not policies, are taking the lion’s share of the conversation. And the Coalition is mainly taking the hit.
Leading hashtags include #watergate2019, #HelloWorld and #ChristmasIsland, all referring to recent scandals and controversial decisions that have dogged the Liberal and National parties.
Another key theme is Clive Palmer, who has been mentioned in almost 1,000 Twitter posts since the election was announced. Notably, these posts are criticising Scott Morrison for making a preference deal with the Palmer United Party, rather than commenting on Palmer’s self-confessed multi-million dollar campaign.
In contrast, policy-related terms like “Healthcare”, “Education” and “Climate Change” have had a combined total of less than 500 hits on Twitter, significantly less than comments on Palmer.
Working Class Bill versus Top-end Scott
Social media users are also fixated on “class war” undertones of this election, focusing heavily on each leader’s approach to working class Australia.
The word “tax” has also appeared in 28% of all social media posts, often alongside other leading terms “exploited”, “exploit”, “vulnerable”, “loopholes”, “fragile” and “pension”. We can largely accredit former a parody account of former Prime Minister Paul Keating for this, as they produced a sole tweet debunking myths that Labor planned to apply a tax to Cars, Carbon and Pensions and endorsed the party for promising to close “tax loopholes”. The tweet was engaged with over 4,000 times, making him one of the leading influencers on social media on the federal election to date.
Just to clear up some confusion regarding Labor Policy:
There is no Car Tax
There is no Pension Tax
There is no Carbon Tax
There is a promise to close tax loopholes exploited by the rich. That is all. And the noise is coming from those who exploit
— Paul John Keating (@Paul_KeatingPM) April 13, 2019
Other large-audience users echoed these comments, condemning Morrison’s apparent support for “tax rorts” and support Labor’s promise take care of the “vulnerable”, the “underdog” and the “poor and disabled”.
So who is winning the “Twitter” poll?
Ipsos, Newspoll and Roy Morgan’s results place Shorten and Morrison almost neck and neck. Yet, at this stage the Twittersphere appears to favour the Labor leader. #ITrustBill, and #IlikeBillShorten were among the leading hashtags. In contrast, Scott Morrison’s leading hashtags by name are #ScoMo and #IDontlikeScottMorrison. #TeamTony also trended widely but this was due to Keating’s twitter post and can certainly not be mistaken for endorsement.
We do need to take into account that social media users are not representative of Australia’s broader population as a whole, and that highly influential Labor supporters such as @Paul_KeatingMP represent a large portion of the conversation. Still, the social media conversation presents a lively debate with users engaging in the campaign and holding the major parties to their promises.
At the very least, we know many Australians are looking forward to getting their democracy sausage come May 18.