Can social media win elections? Analyst says digital campaigns a ‘game changer’

Thousands of supporters listen as President Duterte delivers his speech during a PDP-Laban campaign rally in Cagayan de Oro City on March 24, 2019. Robinson Niñal, Presidential Photo/file

MANILA—Digital political campaigns will “definitely be a game changer” in the 2022 national elections, an analyst said.

Robin Garcia, president and CEO of WR Numero Research, acknowledged this, citing the results of a recent independent study his group conducted.

“I think the question is how much, and you’ve mentioned this, how much of an influence will digital play in the 2022 elections, and the argument that we’re making is it’s a lot. Not just because of the pandemic, but because of the global phenomenon of social media or digital war being a pivotal, or very important, at least, area of political campaigns,” Garcia said. 

“So digital political campaigns will definitely be a game changer. You’ve seen this in the Obama campaign, you’ve seen this in the Trump campaign, and locally, you’ve seen this in the President Duterte campaign. And this is heightened, we feel, with the raging pandemic coming into the national elections in actually 12 months.”

According to Garcia, social media and digital political campaigns may not be the only factor that could win an election, but it can be an indicator of “popularity and awareness.”

“We don’t want to say that social media is the only, sort of, factor that may win an election, but there are two things that social media does for an election,” he said.

“One would be that social media is an indication of popularity and awareness. So for candidates who don’t have a lot of money, in fact, this democratizes the whole political campaign industry. 

“It’s cheaper to do social media campaigns than to do ground campaigns and air campaigns, right? So ground war and air war are two traditional wars that are being fought by politicians and electoral aspirants. 

“But we’ve seen in the last decade, especially with the advent of Facebook in the Philippines, in Twitter, in many different places, that digital war is sort of also important, regardless of whether you have a pandemic.”

Social media also has an agenda-setting and framing power. 

“It might not necessarily translate into votes, but what you do is you frame a conversation, you frame a problem, you frame an issue and social media has a very pivotal role to play in setting agendas and framing conversations towards your favor,” Garcia explained. 

ANC, After The Fact, social media, digital political campaigns, WR Numero, Robin Garcia, 2022 elections, Halalan 2022

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