Active social media presence draws more youth voters, research shows

Turkey's youth electorate sympathizes more with politicians who are active on social media in their campaigns ahead of the upcoming elections, a recent survey has revealed.

The research conducted by associate professor Levent Eraslan from Kırıkkale University's Faculty of Education showed how social media has become an effective tool for politicians to reach the young voters.

The survey "Youth, Political Communication and Social Media," was conducted between May 10 and May 12. It involved a focus group of 50 university students aged between 18 and 22, coming from different socio-economic groups.

Eraslan said that social media should be used carefully and strategically due to its increased significance.

"I think social media needs to be well understood and respected by politics. So, instead of acquaintances, professional social media specialists need to handle this issue... Youth communicate via social media tools and they create their own way to communicate based on their unique interests," he said.

The findings addressed that young voters are actively following the developments around the June 24 elections through social media. The participants said they are primarily looking for concrete and future-oriented projects in the political parties' social media messages.

The young students claimed that they were carefully monitoring employment projects instead of short-term solutions and emphasized that they were not interested in the abstract promises.

Statistics suggest social media tools are increasingly becoming a part of everyday life for more and more Turks. The latest figures suggest that there are 54.3 million internet users in Turkey and 51 million of them use social media tools - which is more than half of the entire population. The most popular social media networks in Turkey, in 2018 are as follows: YouTube, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook Messenger, and Twitter.

The focus group also explained their reasons to follow the social media accounts for short, clear, honest, clear speeches and humorous explanations that influence them. The research pointed out the youth interested in the quality-minded humor in the messages and finds the official, bookish language repulsive.

The research also showed that political communication on Facebook is no longer effective, but political messages on YouTube, Instagram and Twitter can draw more attention.

The young lawmaker candidates who use social media pointed out that it proved to be the fastest and most extensive communication tool to reach the young electorate in the limited time of the snap elections.

According to the Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) İzmir deputy candidate Emre Cemil Ayvalı, who uses Twitter and YouTube actively, it is very difficult to reach all electorate with the old methods, but with social media, it is possible to enter every house.

"YouTube is more popular than any TV channel. We wanted to address them from here, where there are more young people. The biggest advantage of social media is to be able to provide information with the very low budget," Ayvalı said.

Another young AK Party candidate from Istanbul, Rümeysa Kadak said: "If you have no social media account, you may not get the attention of many young people, unfortunately. Because you can talk with up to 200 people in a day when you are on the field, but social media gives you the opportunity to meet thousands of people."

Considering the presidential candidate's recent numbers of followers on Twitter, the Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) candidate Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has 13 million followers. On the other hand, the Republican People's Party's (CHP) candidate Muharrem İnce is followed by 4.2 million Twitter users. The Good Party's (İP) candidate Meral Akşener has 2.6 million followers and the jailed presidential candidate of the pro-PKK People's Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtaş, who revealed his electoral promises via social media, is followed by 1.6 million people on Twitter.


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