Legislative Council elections 2016

Hong Kong pan-democrat and localist election candidates trump rivals on social media, study finds

Education University academic says Eddie Chu was social media champion as well as ‘king of votes’

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 September, 2016, 4:48pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 September, 2016, 10:56pm

Pan-democratic and localist candidates outperformed their pro-establishment rivals in the number of fans on Facebook pages and engagement with their fans during the Legislative Council election campaign, a study has found.

Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, who won the greatest number of votes in the geographical constituencies, stood out among candidates in the number of fans on his Facebook page.

The study was conducted by Dr Brian Fong Chi-hang, associate director of the Academy of Hong Kong Studies at the Education University. He presented the findings at a seminar at the Tai Po university on Wednesday.

The total number of fans on Facebook pages set up by pan-democratic and localist candidates was nearly 1.03 million, five times the number on social media platforms operated by their pro-establishment rivals.

Fong’s research team downloaded and analysed data from candidates’ Facebook pages from July 16, when the nomination period started, until polling day on September 4.

The study is the most comprehensive analysis of the impact of election-related data on social media platforms.

The growth in the number of fans on localist candidates’ Facebook pages was the most impressive among all aspirants, with Eddie Chu taking the top slot by scoring an increase of 225 per cent after July 16.

Chu, who became “king of votes” after bagging 84,121 votes in New Territories West, was followed by fellow localists Lau Siu-lai and Nathan Law Kwun-chung, who were returned in Kowloon West and Hong Kong Island respectively.

In terms of posts written by candidates, Civic Passion’s Cheng Kam-mun was the most diligent. He wrote a total of 664 posts, or 13 posts per day, during the campaign period. Lau Siu-lai came second with 462 posts.

Fans of pan-democratic and localist candidates wrote nearly three million posts on their pages, compared with about 630,000 on the pages of pro-establishment candidates.

“However, the correlation between the number of fans, fans’ engagement and the votes they eventually won is not statistically significant,” Fong said. “Eddie Chu is an exception.”

Cheng lost on Hong Kong Island with 22,555 votes.

Francis Lee Lap-fung, a professor in Chinese University’s school of journalism and communication, said his own study indicated that the correlation between the number of Facebook fans, “likes” and votes eventually won by newcomers was more statistically significant than for incumbents.

Fong said factors such as voter identification with political parties and candidates’ image should also be taken into account in analysing the prospects of candidates in elections.

Meanwhile, Chinese University political scientist Ivan Choy Chi-keung said his analysis of votes in Legco election polling stations across the city showed the New People’s Party won the biggest vote share in upper and middle-class neighbourhoods.

The party, led by pro-establishment heavyweight Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, won more than 22 per cent of votes in polling stations close to luxury properties, compared with 9.3 per cent bagged by the Civic Party, whose core members are professionals.

“The Civic Party was the best performer in upper and middle-class areas in the 2012 Legco elections,” Choy said. “The reversal of fortune for the Civic Party and the New People’s Party may be an indication that some middle-class voters have become conservative in the wake of political polarisation in the past few years.”