On Friday, my colleague Lesley Copeland and I presented our paper, entitled “Candidates do it, why can’t election agencies? The Town of Markham’s use of Facebook in the 2010 Municipal Election” on Parliament Hill.
This presentation was part of a two-day conference organized by Carleton University’s Hon. Dick and Ruth Bell Chair for the Study of Canadian Parliamentary Democracy.
Our paper addresses government use of social media in an election context. Specifically, it examines the Town of Markham‘s experience with social media in the 2010 municipal election (through the DIY Markham campaign) as a case study to shed light on what key steps to implementation might be, candidate and public opinion regarding the use of social media in elections, and how to approach and resolve the tension between the openness of social media and the need for election agencies to maintain neutrality and remain impartial.
Although the PowerPoint did not work, the presentation went well and generated a lot of interest from the audience. After the discussion I was asked to participate in a Speaker Series at the Department of Canadian Heritage to give a talk on this material and some of the other research I have been doing regarding the electoral engagement of young people. This will take place in March.
Overall, I think a lot of people were surprised to learn about the penetration of social media, particularly in Canada. One finding I feel is especially interesting is electors’ and candidates’ strong support for government use of social media to encourage participation in elections more so than as a tool through which to inform citizens.
The research for this paper comes from an Internet voting survey Delvinia conducted during the 2010 municipal election. Survey items asked voters some key questions about how government should use social media and these responses provided useful explanatory insight for this piece. Thanks to Delvinia for allowing Lesley and myself to use the data for this research.