Can Social Media Influence Election Results?

Aug 13, 2021

Social media has given way to social reform by having a significant role in normalizing and expressing differences of opinions through online platforms, especially now that there are people who know how to create political content that may appeal more and be relevant to young voters.

Such things like data and analytical tools drive great innovations that are continually uprising in the current digital world; however, with good outcomes come bad intentions on social media platforms.

Social Media's Influence

Studies were conducted by a data science organization in Malaysia, proposing that party leaders who applied big data and social media in the elections could have gained an advantage over others.

The Centre of Applied Data Science (CADS), who ran an analysis study, found that in the General election of 2018, Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition had accumulated millions of votes through a social media strategy. Malaymail had then carried out an interview with the founder and CEO of the Centre of Applied Data Science (CADS) – Sharala Axryd, to get an insight into the social media strategies that politicians seem to have been applying to their campaigns.

“”— Sharala Axryd, Founder and CEO, CADS

Axryd has said that almost everything individuals do on the internet would become useful information for organizations to understand the user’s behavior, looking into their search history and tracing their readings, with the use of social media algorithms. ‘Cookies’ that can be found on websites and devices will pass the information gathered to tech companies such as Facebook or Google.

Axryd had also stated that there might be some truth to artificial intelligence technologies in virtual assistants in home automation systems and on phones, listening to conversations. According to Accenture, Malaysia has a population of about 31.6 million, with over 80% connected to the internet and is forecasted to be over 85% by 2022. This high internet penetration rate makes it clear as to why politicians would go after the digital world.

Barisan Nasional’s (BN) branches had focused on creating a more substantial presence on social media as well as handling door-to-door engagement tactics in urban areas, as reported by thediplomat. This way, their underlining messages in those campaigns are highly interactive and entertaining. Understanding and segregating the data’s context gathered from the campaigns is crucial to determine the leading party through the people’s attitudes and opinions on social media. Politicians are able to take the people’s sentiment and update their future campaigns to attract targeted audiences. However, during the 14th general election, Barisan Nasional’s (BN) government had not taken note of the insights from social media’s data, which could have allowed them to see into the people’s wants and needs.

The ‘Bossku campaign’ from the former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, noted by Axryd, had been impactful due to its digital recognition, capturing people’s hearts and minds on social media. Najib had strategized many ways to connect with his audience on social media, and even after the defeat of his party in the 14th general election, Najib had used different tones to portray himself as an ordinary person while having his ‘Bossku’ social media persona. Now that many politicians know the uses of social media to gain support, Axryd chose Minister Khairy Jamaluddin to be the one who is successful at using technology to address the youth’s economic needs constructively. She spoke about Muar MP Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman having active social media campaigns; although being active on social media may be a cause for gaining attention, it does not necessarily mean it will be effective or useful.


Max is the official mascot for CADS or the Center of Applied Data Science.