Votes and Visibility on Social Media. the Case of Poland's 2015 Surprising Presidential Elections

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 12:00
Location: Hörsaal 23 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Helena CHMIELEWSKA-SZLAJFER, Kozminski University, Poland
The paper aims to explore the influence of visibility on social media in Poland’s public sphere today, in this particular case: the unexpected 2015 presidential election results. The sure-to-win candidate Bronisław Komorowski, then president in office, lost to a newcomer from the main opposition party, Andrzej Duda, with the help of another unusual presidential candidate, Paweł Kukiz, an outsider punk-rock star. Both their powerful internet campaigns significantly focused on social media—e.g. memes on Facebook and news bites in tweets—successfully swayed the voters by using the power of viral information. The virals (i.e. information which spreads in a viral-like manner) included campaigning for single-member districts (Kukiz) as well as negative campaigning filled with quotes out of context (Duda). At the same time Komorowski put little effort in his own campaign, his use of social media was barely noticeable, and often unsuccessful in gaining attention of social-media users.

While it is difficult to claim that social media determined the outcome of the recent elections, they undeniably played an instrumental role in engaging people in the campaign on the internet: they shared memes, tweets, and news articles, and they often engaged in discussions concerning the candidates’ programs. Furthermore, social media platforms, e.g. Facebook and Twitter, are perfect examples of contemporary everyday tools which influence what information users see, how they interact with it, and how they organize it by sharing information with others. It is particularly visible in situations when information posted on social media is intended to achieve a particular goal in “real” life (i.e. outside the internet), such as national politics. Thus, I believe a close analysis of virals focused on the candidates during the 2015 presidential campaign may show interesting insights concerning the visibility of different types of information used on social media to influence citizens’ choices.