​Could Twitter sway the general election? Youth ‘politicized’ online, says survey

Reuters / Dado Ruvic
Young people are increasingly using Twitter to further their political understanding and engagement, a study has found. The ability to target politicians and journalists directly through social media could influence the general election result.

The survey, which interviewed 3,000 users aged between 18 and 34, found 45 percent had become interested in a particular political issue after following it on the site.

A further 37 percent said they used the social network to gather information about the general election, while two-thirds believed Twitter was responsible for a “more honest and unpolished perspective on politics” in a “simple to understand way.”

While a growing level of online political awareness among “disengaged” youth may seem a welcome surprise for many politicians, the gaffe-prone political class have routinely failed to use it effectively.

Maybe users love to get involved because Twitter provides a direct line to British politics.

The effects might not be pleasant, but at least the youth of today can make their opinions heard.

Even if those opinions mostly involve calling Ed Miliband a muppet…

Twitter has given the public the chance to hold MPs to account, and in extreme cases has cost politicians their careers and credibility.

Emily Thornberry, a former Labour MP, was forced to stand down after provoking the wrath of “White Van Men” on Twitter when her tweet about Rochester was labeled classist and patronizing.

The UK Independence Party (UKIP) also found itself in a social media quandary after mistaking Westminster Cathedral for a mosque. The tweet was removed, but only after it had circulated the internet to the glee of users.

The social network also allows journalists to be held responsible for their actions.

Channel 4 reporter Cathy Newman decided to quit Twitter after CCTV footage revealed she had lied about being ushered out of a mosque during an open day. The resulting backlash drew her integrity into question.

Perhaps the politicization of the Twittersphere’s youth can be attributed to a single tweet. May the internet never forget Ed Balls, who once illuminatingly tweeted his own name.