The number of fans or followers a brand has on social networks is usually a good indicator of its popularity in society. Generally, the more popular a brand is, the higher the number of followers it has on Facebook and/or Twitter. In an attempt to foresee the results of next year’s general elections, we conducted research on the popularity of South African political parties on the two major social networks, Facebook and Twitter.
South Africa currently has 14 political parties that are represented in parliament and over 60 that have no seats in parliament. Among the parties that are unrepresented in parliament, Agang SA and Economic Freedom Fighters are the most popular. Our findings, although not statistically robust, indicate that Julius Malema’s EFF is South Africa’s fastest growing political party. Although it is the newest party, it is already among the top 5 most popular parties.
Malema announced his intention to start EFF in June, just three months ago. This was four months after the launch of Dr Mamphela Ramphele’s Agang SA. However, the popularity of EFF on Facebook has grown significantly and considerably surpassed that of Agang SA. Actually, EFF now has the highest number of followers (46 269) on Facebook than all other political parties of South Africa, as shown in Table 1. The number of EFF followers on Facebook is twenty four times that of COPE (Congress of the People) and 117 times that of IFP followers.
|Party||Facebook Likes||Twitter Followers|
|ANC||26 376||70 625|
|EFF||46 269||23 578|
|DA||30 878||35 468|
|Agang SA||25 296||32 827|
If the number of votes next year were to be proportionate to the number of Facebook likes, the top six parties would be EFF, DA, ANC, Agang SA, COPE and IFP. However, Facebook alone cannot be used to accurately predict the outcome of next year’s elections. There are many factors that need to be taken into consideration in order to make accurate predictions.
On Twitter, EFF is the fourth most popular party, with more than 23 000 followers. The ANC is at the top, with over 70 000 followers. Behind the ANC are the DA and Agang SA, who have 35 468 and 32 827 followers respectively. However, considering the fact that Twitter has fewer users than Facebook, and that EFF’s Twitter page was founded recently (June 2013), it can be deduced that EFF is the fastest growing political party on Twitter. In the very near future, it will probably have more followers than the other parties, just like on Facebook.
They say numbers don’t lie. If that is true, then EFF is likely to book itself several seats in Parliament next year. If the popularity of COPE and IFP is so low, EFF and Agang SA have the potential to surpass them and become part of the big four political parties of South Africa. Nonetheless, there is no guarantee that the number of Facebook likes and Twitter followers will translate into votes. Therefore, it still remains to be seen which parties will dominate the elections next year.