The Upper House election this year has become more interesting in terms of the campaign period, since for the first time, parties are allowed to use the Internet to promote their candidates. While the ruling Liberal Democratic Party is ahead in terms of response to its social media campaigns, the other parties are trying to catch up with them as we enter the final stage of the campaign period.
The LDP has far more Facebook, Twitter and Line followers than the other political parties and they enjoy a spike in positive feedback every time Prime Minister Shinzo Abe talks about his economic policies, more popularly known as “Abenomics,” during televised debates. An analysis of their Internet data has led the LDP to conclude that Abe’s high approval ratings and his large number of Facebook followers has spilled over into the party’s website and social networks. Junior partner New Komeito also has a large number of followers, with the highest number of Line contacts among all the parties. Their over 100,000 contacts are informed of the schedules and TV appearances of their executives and candidates.
The other parties are trying their best to catch up to the two by implementing several campaigns to boost their social media popularity. Opposing Democratic Party of Japan asks their Line contacts questions like “What’s your idea of favorable working conditions?” and “Is the election heating up in the area where you live?” They say they receive 3,000-6,000 responses per question and then these are analyzed and separated per district. The data is then sent to each candidate’s headquarters in order for them to understand the public consensus to help optimize their campaign.
Japan Restoration Party relies on the huge following on Twitter of party co-leader Toru Hashimoto, having 1.1 million followers. They use his account to post links to videos about their candidates. Your Party’s Twitter account, which boasts almost the same number as the LDP’s is occasionally used by leader Yoshimi Watanabe. They recently launched a survey on their website, asking for ideas on regulatory reforms. The best ideas will be added to the election pledges of the candidates and they hope the interaction will gain them more supporters. The Japanese Communist Party meanwhile created mascot characters (“yuru-kyara“) for each of their main policy agenda items to attract more attention to their candidates and platform.
It remains to be seen if all these social media efforts will make a dent in the seemingly insurmountable popularity of the LDP and New Komeito. While early polls show them winning the majority seats, the added element of social media interaction just might introduce surprises in next week’s election.