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Social Networks Show Political Ambivalence Ahead of Philippine Elections

BY Julia Wetherell | Monday, February 25 2013

Rappler.com's SNA graph of election season Twitter use.

Filipinos will be heading to the polls for midterm elections in May, with senators and representatives from districts around the country set to be selected for the Sixteenth Congress of the Philippines.  Yet even as the two major political parties campaign for rule of the legislature, it turns out that their base supporters may not be that different – raising questions of the strength of the party system. 

Rappler.com, a social news site from the Philippines, reported this weekend on their social network analyses of election chatter.  Rappler’s SNA was based on data from shares, tweets, and mentions from the networks around the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), headed by current Vice President Jejomar Binay, and TeamPNoy, the liberal coalition under current President Benigno Aquino III. 

During election season, one might expect Twitter discourse to be heavily partisan.  Yet Rappler found that Twitter users voicing support for either party are rallying around the same key users online, and coming from the same communities. Whereas in US elections, different political bases might range widely on the ideological spectrum – as well as engage with vastly different news sources – in the Philippines, other than their respective allegiances, these bases seem to have a lot in common.

The weak nature of the parties may be a reflection of the country’s personality-driven politics; one politician interviewed by Rappler pointed out that, especially in a midterm year, an election is treated “as a referendum of the president.”

In addition, Rappler found that their own general hashtag for election discourse, #PHVote, has seen significantly more mentions that either #TeamPNoy or #UNAsaCEBU, the hashtags chosen by the competing parties. 

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

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