The battle for Taichung on social media

screenshot of Lin Chia-lun's Facebook page

Taichung is a key battleground in Taiwan’s local elections. Overall victory or defeat in the elections is likely to be judged on who wins the mayoral race in Taichung. Both major parties have a realistic chance of winning what is likely to be a close contest. Hence, they will be investing a great deal in their campaigns.

The closeness of the contest in Taichung makes it an ideal site for analysing and comparing the campaign strategies of the two major parties. In this post I have done some basic analysis of how the two mayoral candidates are using social media to get their message out to voters.

The battle for Taichung sees incumbent mayor Jason Hu (胡志強) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) competing against Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). These two candidates also contested the election for Taichung Mayor in 2005 with Hu the victor on that occasion.

Jason Hu has been Mayor of Taichung for thirteen years now, nine as Mayor of Taichung City and the past four as the Mayor of Taichung Municipality. Hu is also a Vice-Chairman of the KMT and a former Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Lin Chia-lung was the Legislator for Taichung No. 6 District until he resigned shortly before the election. He has previously served as  Director of the Government Information Office and Secretary-General of the DPP.

screenshot of Jason Hu's Facebook page

I have collated and analysed some data from the two Taichung mayoral candidates’ Facebook pages. The data is from the official Facebook pages of Hu and Lin for the period from 17 to 23 November. This includes the final weekend of the campaign when both candidates held major rallies and the days leading up to it. The data was collated on the evening of 24 November.

 Jason Hu (KMT)Lin Chia-lung (DPP)
Page likes112,206275,513
Average posts/day2.95
Average likes/post1076819716
Average comments/post284282
Average shares/post182144

The data shows that Lin has more than double the overall likes on his page compared with Hu. Lin has almost double the average likes per post. Hu is slightly ahead of Lin in the number of comments and shares per post, although his page has fewer posts per day so Lin is still ahead in terms of overall activity. Lin is clearly reaching many more supporters and potential voters through Facebook than his rival Hu.

I previously looked at social media use in the 2009 and 2010 elections. At that time the DPP had a very clear and obvious advantage in this area. While the KMT may have now adopted a more professional and consistent approach to using social media in their campaigns, their level of outreach and engagement with voters still lags significantly behind the DPP.

This might be explained by the DPP having stronger support among young people who are more active users of social media. It may also be because the KMT invests more in other forms of advertising and utilising local networks to mobilise voters while placing less emphasis on the use of social media. My analysis is only based on limited data and no qualitative interviews. This is certainly a subject that could be researched in more depth.