With the election season now in full swing, politicians need to be careful how they engage with their electorates online, according to research commissioned by Twitter Australia which found young people are especially conscious of how candidates conduct themselves on social media.
Of the 2,300 people polled by Twitter, 63 per cent of young Australians – aged 18-24 – said a politician’s online behaviour affects their voting preference.
The biggest turn offs are the spread of misinformation or disinformation which 80 per cent of young people said would dissuade them from voting for a particular politician.
Getting into fights with other social media users was also a major turn off.
Overall, just under half the whole population is concerned by how their local candidate acts on social media, showing something of a generational divide between the digital natives who have grown up on social media and those raised on more traditional news outlets.
“The public conversation on Twitter is more important than ever during elections, with research showing more than one third of young Australians will get the majority of their political information from social media during the election campaign,” said Kara Hinesley, Twitter’s regional Public Policy Director.
As such, Twitter sees young people as core to its network as it looks to become the de facto platform for political discussion and is pushing for young Australians to register to vote and share their first trip to the polls with the hashtag #MyFirstDemocracySausage.
While the total proportion of eligible Australians enrolled to vote is high – around 96 per cent according to the AEC – the number of young people sits below 85 per cent.
Getting more young people to vote is an effort shared with the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) which has a very active, and often amusing, presence on Twitter as it seeks to counter the spread of online disinformation about elections.
On Monday, the Commissioner appeared on Reddit to answer specific questions about political messaging during elections and the best way to eat a democracy sausage.
But for all the positive effort being done online to ensure the stability of Australia’s democratic processes, the AEC continues to be criticised for its failure to get more Aboriginal Australians in remote communities enrolled to vote.
The NT’s Northern Land Council says as many as 40,000 Territorians have not been enrolled because of a failure in the AEC’s automatic enrolment system that won’t enrol people who don’t have a postal address, meaning they can’t receive written notices from the AEC.
The AEC is aware of its failings and has begun trialling the use of email instead of postal notices, according to the New Daily.
Samuel Bush-Blanasi, Chair of the Northern Land Council, said it still wasn’t good enough that so many Aboriginal Australians weren’t automatically enrolled this close to the deadline.
“Still we see far too many of our mob being left off the electoral roll,” he said.
“Any policy that diminishes the democratic rights of one group of citizens in the NT diminishes the rights of everyone. This isn’t good enough.”
Australians can update or check enrolment details at the AEC website.
The deadline for voter enrolment is next Monday, 18 April.