On 25th October, the mayoral elections took place in Toronto. And heralded an innovation in the use of social media within politics.
Throughout the day of the elections, the National Post conducted exit polls using Foursquare check-ins. Voters could visit the Toronto Election 2010 venue on Foursquare after casting their vote, and check-in. The National Post asked that those who checked-in should leave a message indicating who they voted for and why. These “tips” were compiled by the newspaper on election day and covered in their election night special, providing immediate insight into voter preferences, and information of immense use to pollsters.
Although Foursquare is only just catching on in the UK, this use of the social media site does have interesting possibilities. In Toronto, there were insufficient check-ins from Foursquare users to really give a representative sample of voting – but imagine what this might look like in 5 years time – the year of the next UK General Election.
After all Facebook has only been around for 6 years, and now has 500 million users. Foursquare has hit the 4 million mark, after only a year in existence. As more and more people join the site, the possibilities for using geo-location for our next General Election become exciting. What if every polling station across the UK had a Foursquare check-in? What if people could log in and share who they voted for, and why, in a matter of seconds? The possibilities for real time compilation of statistics, information, and voting patterns are immense.
And it doesn't stop there. The National Post engaged with the Foursquare voters in a two-way conversation, keeping them up to date on election progress, and posting ‘tips' linked to items covering the events of the day. Would this level of engagement ennervate a disillusioned UK public into taking more of an interest in politics, and raise voting levels during the major elections?
But would people be willing to share who they voted for online? Or is this a step too far in the invasion of our privacy? Tell me what you think.