Canadians Alarmed Over the Influence of Social Media in Upcoming Elections

Seven-in-10 worried about social’s influence in voting decisions, with eight-in-10 saying it will directly impact who gets elected in this country.

Vancouver, BC – With a federal election just five months away, Canadians are expressing concerns about the influence of social media in the upcoming vote. Early results from our “Social Media Insights 2019 Report” (full results to be released in early June) show that nearly seven-in-10 Canadians are worried that social media will be used to influence election outcomes in Canada. Most also believe that social media will play a significant role in the political debate and many will participate directly, but Canadians are very concerned about upcoming federal election voter intentions being shaped on social media by political groups, partisan groups, and foreign entities.

The years-long debate and intense media focus in the United States over concerns of foreign meddling in elections, in particular the 2016 Presidential vote, as well as similar stories from other countries has seeped into the Canadian psyche. Our survey found that 71% of Canadians are worried that other countries or foreign governments are using social media to influence elections in Canada (44% very worried, 27% somewhat worried).

Our survey also found that 62% of Canadians are worried about Canadian political parties using social media to influence elections in the country (34% very worried, with 28% somewhat worried). An even larger number (74%) is worried about special interest and partisan groups using social media to influence elections (44% very worried, 30% somewhat worried).

The survey found these concerns about social media (political parties, partisan groups, and foreign governments) are universal and uniform across the country with a similar breakdown of numbers across gender and region. However, baby boomers are more likely to be concerned than other age groups (by about 10-12 points), and interestingly, past Liberal and NDP voters show more concern over social media’s influence in politics than past Conservative voters (also by about 10-12 points).

“There’s little argument that social media is ubiquitous in modern life. While once seen as an online space for sharing photos of family vacations and what you had for lunch, more and more business and politics have creeped into the space, stirring up both discourse and distrust,” says Steve Mossop, President of Insights West. “Our survey shows that social media has seemingly become much more political with more people using it to gather and share news, information, opinion, and other messages. Our earlier release in April showed that consumers are concerned about social media filtering news and information to users based on their past online behaviour, and that just heightens the overall concern when it comes to the political debate.”

Social media in Canada will likely get more political as Canadians prepare to go to the polls on Monday, October 21 for the 2019 federal election – a vote viewed primarily as a showdown between Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer. Already, soft campaigning has begun with that set to intensify over the summer and fall months. No doubt, all candidates and campaigns will turn to social media to spread their message.

Overall, the vast majority of Canadians believe that social media will have a great deal of influence on the 2019 federal election – 84% believe that social media will influence who Canadians vote for in October. Of that, 46% believe social media will have a lot of influence on voters, and 38% say will have a little bit of influence, but still play a role in decisions made at the ballot box.

As for the final outcome itself, again, most Canadians feel that social media will influence the actual result. Nearly eight-in-10 (78%) say social media will influence the outcome of October’s vote, with 34% saying it will have a lot of influence and 44% believing it will have a little bit of influence.

But whose political opinions are going to be influenced by social media? Well, that’s other people, but definitely ‘not me’ – or so respondents in our poll believe. The survey showed that 60% of Canadians say that social media will have no influence on their own decision come October. Still, a surprisingly large number say it will have a lot (8%) or a little (26%) influence as to who they actually vote for themselves. Again, past Conservative voters and baby boomers feel they will be far less likely to be swayed by social media than voters of other political stripes.

Still, the results clearly show that social media will play a huge role among a large proportion of the Canadian population in shaping the political debate and dialogue around election issues, as individual participation levels in the political debate on social media is high. When asked about the frequency of their engagement with political news, views, and posts on social media, 63% of Canadians say they have read political news and content on at least a weekly basis, with 36% doing so daily. Another 38% have ‘liked’ a political view on social on at least a weekly basis (18% of them doing so on a daily basis). And 28% have commented on a political view on at least a weekly basis (12% daily). Most telling of all, 60% of Canadians said they have shared their own political views on a social media platform at some point, with 12% of them doing so on a daily basis.

Interestingly, past Conservative voters are more likely to be involved in the online social political debate, despite the fact they are less likely to admit to being swayed by social media than other voters. The number of Conservatives who post, like, or comment daily is about 10 points higher than for NDP or Liberal voters.

About Insights West:

Insights West is a progressive, Western-based, full-service marketing research company. It exists to serve the market with insights-driven research solutions and interpretive analysis through leading-edge tools, normative databases, and senior-level expertise across a broad range of public and private sector organizations. Insights West is based in Vancouver and Calgary.

About this Release:

Results are based on an online study conducted from April 22 – May 1, 2019 among a representative sample of 1,023 Canadian adults. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region. The margin of error—which measures sample variability—is +/- 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies between totals are due to rounding. Click HERE to view the detailed data tabulations.

For further information, please contact:

Steve Mossop
President
Insights West
778.891.4762

stevemossop@insightswest.com