Halfway to nowhere: social media highlights of the Calgary election

Posted by on Oct 9, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

Halfway to nowhere: social media highlights mid way through the Calgary election campaign.

By Bruce Cameron, ROI

If social media activity is a new barometer of an election campaign, then it appears Naheed Nenshi is cruising towards a massive re-election win as Mayor of Calgary on October 21st. It should not come as a surprise. Nenshi dominates online chatter.

His legendary social media savvy is reflected in the relative size of his own twitter handle @nenshi, as well as the presence of active online supporters @dollhouseyyc (Marc Doll) and @carter (Stephen Carter). That’s not to say there’s no opposition. A small, but active anti-Nenshi community does exist.

Nenshi’s only credible opponent, Jon Lord (who has actually been elected to City Council and the Alberta Legislature in the past), spent the midpoint of the campaign competing in a BBQ competition in Missouri. Granted, he made it back for Monday’s mayoralty forum, after finishing 445th at the cooking competition.  Foreshadowing?

Few key issues are emerging partly because of the predictable composition of the anti-Nenshi camp. First, there are the always-vocal tax-fighters — the 10 per cent of Calgarians who complain about property taxes. They’ll likely show up to vote, but it’s doubtful they can get others to worry as much as they do about property taxes and development fees.

The second round of opponents — the group of developers who dared take on the purple orthodoxy of building “up not out” — also has its broader base of fans at times. But, like the tax-fighters, they can’t seem to capture the imagination of the masses in the same way Nenshi continues to do.

Polls consistently show Calgarians remain highly satisfied with the direction of the city over the past decade and that sense of satisfaction only increased as a result of Nenshi’s response to June’s flood.

So what can we learn from analyzing the online conversations of Calgarians about the election in the first two weeks of the campaign?

First, during the flood crisis, single-day impressions of Calgary via social media conversations topped 50 million. So far during this municipal campaign, impressions about the elections have typically averaged around one million on most days, peaking at almost 5 million on the night of the October 7 mayoral forum.

Second, social media monitoring shows that this is an election in search of an issue. Taxes, development fees, secondary suites and the Mayor’s support of all incumbents have been discussed, but no one issue has dominated online chats, blogs and mentions.

In fact, there were twice as many people talking about Nenshi when he took on the Parti Quebecois’ Social Values Charter and Ezra Levant in September than at any point so far in the 2013 election campaign.

If the current on-line trend continues, I expect turnout rates to drop to about 20 per cent come voting day on October 21st.

They say “all boats rise in a flood.” Friday, I’ll share our social media analysis of some of the key Ward races and why incumbents are enjoying strength on-line.


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