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In Bangkok Governor's Race, Social Media Acts as a Populist Poll

BY Julia Wetherell | Friday, February 22 2013

Gubernatorial candidate Suharit Siamwalla (from: ZocialEye)

Bangkok residents will elect a new governor on March 3. This election cycle, more Thai voters are getting their information about candidates from social media than ever before. Could observing the chatter around the elections replace traditional polling methods, as a means of predicting the outcome of the elections?

A new online platform that displays social media metrics for each candidate in a user-friendly fashion could change the face of polling. Earlier this week, Thailand's The Nation newspaper reported on a Bangkok elections platform built with the social media monitoring system ZocialEye.

Aggregating data from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Web Board, the site displays updating information about mentions the candidates are receiving across the web. 

The homepage currently displays the four most popular candidates on social media, including leading contenders Sukhumbhand Paribatra, the incumbent, and Pongsapat Pongcharoen, the nominee from the Pheu Thai Party.  The socially sourced nature of the campaign can perhaps account for the fact that Suharit Siamwalla, a popular electronic dance musician who is also running for the office, is also featured on the front page. 

Yet that’s the beauty of these kinds of platforms – by streaming in social media data, they reflect the unfiltered opinion of the public. As Wittaya Jangkobwattana, one independent candidate in the election, told the Nation, social media metrics “are more reliable than polls. They can be verified.”  Taking polling out the hands of third parties reflects a more realistic public opinion – one that could show at the polls in two weeks. 

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network for its generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.