Why There is No Excuse Not to Vote This Time

25/02/2016

The election is coming up and there are no excuses not to vote this time.

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If you aren’t aware that there’s a general election on Friday 26th February then you have been living under a rock. We have arrived at the first, truly digital election and it offers more information and insights than ever before. Our social media feeds, TVs and newspapers of choice have been taken over by the topic. Online publications like The Journal have launched a #Election2016 newsfeed and Paddy Power’s Irish Politics betting page is the first Google search result for the term ‘general election’.

In the past our political education was generally limited to traditional media, door-to-door conversations, leaflets, election posters and party-allegiance hand me downs from our parents. Today we have a vast range of information to hand, the “sure I don’t know enough about it, I don’t know the party issues well enough” line of excuse no longer holds water. 

RTÉ and TV3 have covered the run up to the election with Leaders’ Debates. Whether there was an appetite for three of these is questionable and certainly by the time of the last televised debate, the concept seemed to have tired slightly but they drew viewers in nonetheless. The hashtag #leadersdebate trended in Dublin and over the course of three dates generated 135,000 mentions.

Taking an American approach both TV stations followed with live analysis and reactions programmes. TV3 went with a Tonight Show Special presented by Newstalk Breakfast’s Ivan Yates while RTÉ aired two episodes of The Spin Show hosted by David McCullagh.

What’s really interesting about these debates is the amount of additional content and analysis, everywhere. For those who missed the debates on TV they are available on both the RTÉ Player and the 3Player. If you fancy the elevator pitch version you can save time by browsing through The Journal’s FactCheck article series where they are ‘sifting for truth – so you don’t have to’ by validating claims made by politicians during the debates and debunking others. 

Another outlet proving the cold, hard, facts is Irish Election Stats. Political analyst David Higgins offers information such as the number of likely seats a party can obtain and how many seats are available to females although all of this information is pointless if you are unsure which constituency you belong to. Thankfully, Who Is My TD?, the brain child of Colm Doyle and Ruth Ní Eidhin, answers this question in a wonderfully user-friendly format; enter your address to have a list of relevant candidates generated for you. 

Politicians and their teams are beginning to wake up to the potential role of social media in their campaigns. Following the incredible success of last year’s marriage referendum, which saw 60.5% of the population turn out to vote, and the ability to niche target desired voting demographics, parties are turning their attention and their budgets to the various social platforms in the hopes for another #hometovote moment. 

Researchers at the Insight Centre for Data Analytics are tracking the Twitter engagement of all candidates in the upcoming election. Findings have shown that 88% of those running on Friday have a Twitter account. Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams has the highest number of followers followed by Enda Kenny and TD Shane Ross. On Facebook the Sinn Fein page has the largest amount of likes, with Fine Gael in second and Fianna Fail in third. According to the Irish Times, Sinn Féin has grown their Facebook audience from practically nothing to 90,000 in five years. 

This amount of data, analysis, opinion and fact is great albeit hard to follow. If you have reached your saturation point with one day to go but are still none the wiser as to who deserves your vote, no problem,Smartvote.ie can help. The website, which boasts the tag line ‘your 10-minutes intro to the General Election 2016’ has asked each candidate thirty questions. You are promoted to answer the same survey and like a dating website are matched with the politicians who share similar views. 

With such an abundance of information at your fingertips you will have to get creative with your excuses not vote because claiming ignorance this time around just won’t cut it. 

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