Saturday, September 19, 2015

Singapore General Election 2015: Did Social Media Make a Difference?

In the follow-up to the recently concluded Singapore General Election 2015 (GE2015) where the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) scored a landslide victory over the opposition, many political observers have weighed-in on the role of social media.
Opposition supporters like Derek da Cunha and Terry Xu of The Online Citizen (TOC) have been quoted as saying that social media had zero impact in moving the votes against the PAP. This is very a very different view from 2011, where they lauded social media as being the "great equaliser".
What Derek and Terry have failed to acknowledge is that social media did play an important part in the results, but not in the way they had hoped. Since GE2011, numerous anti-government sites had sprung up. The Real Singapore, The Online Citizen, Temasek Review Emeritus and States Times Review to name a few. Where these sites went wrong is that they were extremely biased against the government to the extent that they often distorted news, start rumours, spread untruths, perpetuate myths and engage in smear campaigns. So much so that the discerning middle ground saw through their actions and dismissed much of what they were saying.
The opposition's social media self-implosion was not completely of their own doing. Pro-government supporters also had a part to play in it. Pro-government supporters recognised that the middle ground (the key to winning GE2015) was logical. Thus, instead of fighting the opposition distortion for distortion, rumour for rumour, pro-government supporters fought a more strategic online campaign where they worked to portray anti-government sites as the purveyors of lies and asked voters to do their own research. This essentially undermined the opposition's social media campaigns and negated the effect on the middle ground.
Thus, contrary to what opposition social media"experts" are concluding, we believe that GE2015 was in fact more a social media election that GE2011. Having a negative outcome does not dismiss its effect. In actuality, pro-government supporters had learnt from GE2011 and had fought a good campaign to defeat the opposition on social media.

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