#Indyref: What impact will social media have on Scottish independence?

18 September 2014, Blog

With the Scots hitting the polls today, social media has become an integral platform in the shaping of the Independence campaign for both union vs. independence. The referendum has so far inspired more than 10 million Facebook interactions over a five week period, according to the University of Strathclyde, and has promoted the creation of the ‘I’m a Voter’ button to encourage further users of the network to engage in the conversation.

The campaign itself is currently neck and neck between unionist and pro-independence campaigners and it is clear the social media activity will be the tip in the balance to one side or the other.

The research also suggests that there have been an average of 275,000 referendum-based interactions per day, with the vast majority of comments coming from the Scots themselves as expected.

If Facebook groups are anything to go by, then ‘Yes’ campaigners should see a landslide victory. While the official ‘No’ campaign page has 207,033 Facebook ‘likes’ at present, the ‘Yes’ campaign has over 300,000. Forbes’ most recent infographic puts the online debate into perspective:

However, just how reliable is social media activity when it comes to voting and can it really make a difference to the political outcome?

“Studies show that when people see their Facebook friends talking about voting, they are more likely to vote themselves,” Elizabeth Linder, Facebook’s politics and government specialist for Europe and MENA, told the International Business Times.

While social media analysts generally agree with the statement, some argue that monitoring activity via Facebook doesn’t depict an accurate picture of voter behaviour or turnout.

“There is no direct relationship… There’s no denying that it’s influential, however,” Carl Miller, researcher at the Centre of Social media Analysis told Sky News.

It is also important to discuss the demographics of those engaging in the online debate. With Facebook and Twitter’s average age demographic increasing on a regular basis to between 37-41 years old, this is surely to impact on their knowledge of the referendum and ultimately on the decision that they will make. In stark contrast the average age of Instagram and Snapchat users is between 16-25, and more importantly are by far the most active people on social media.

Despite only scratching the surface of digital activity this nonetheless indicates that social media has been significant in developing the debate on Scottish Independence. And while there isn’t enough evidence available to suggest that it will have an impact on the final call, it’s worth considering that the most active people on social media may be the referendums’ tipping voters.

To follow more on the referendum and join the conversation, follow #indyref on Twitter.

JBP Staff Member

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