Japanese politicians across the political spectrum jumped at the opportunity to use the Internet in campaigning for Sunday’s election, the first to be held after the lifting of a ban on using the Web in the run-up to a national vote. But while a media survey shows that the vast majority of candidates used the Net as a campaigning tool to garner votes from younger and tech-savvy voters, another poll indicates there is still a long way to go before all voters embrace the Internet as a primary source of information for deciding who they will support. Analysis of the media survey also shows that although the victorious Liberal Democratic Party boasted the ability to reach the largest number of people with its messages on social media, it ranked only fifth in terms of the quantity of tweets posted on microblogging site Twitter. Leading the way on planet Twitter was the Japanese Communist Party, arguably the most enthusiastic convert to the ways of Internet campaigning since the law changed. The survey by national broadcaster NHK showed that 91% of candidates for the upper house election used social media services such as Twitter and Facebook to post information about their campaign platforms, rally schedules, and videos of previous speeches and messages from supporters. According to analysis of the survey conducted with assistance from NTT Data, election tweets from candidates of all major political parties during the campaign period totaled 53,000, with almost 20% of those postings coming from the JCP.
While the LDP candidates only tweeted about 4,700 times, the party still remained the most popular in terms of Internet support and interest, helped by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s legion of 150,000 Twitter followers. The NHK-NTT analysis showed that the number of tweet submissions using “Liberal Democratic Party” as a political party of interest added up to 1,752,000 during the campaign period. The word “prime minister,” referring to LDP leader Shinzo Abe, also accounted for 554,000 tweets while Banri Kaieda, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan only garnered 28,000.
In embracing the Net as a tool in its election battle, the nearly century old JCP put together an Internet task force to create a campaign based around cute, humorous characters that gained some popularity. The JCP was among the top performing minor opposition parties in the election.
Earlier this year JCP leader Kazuo Shii didn’t even have a Twitter account, and didn’t post his first tweet until the beginning of May. But the party’s upper house candidates quickly took to social media once the election season started, with 58 of its candidates accounting for the election’s most frequent Twitter activity. The JCP’s tally of 10,361 tweets was over 3,000 more than the total for the Japan Restoration Party, which had the second highest figure, followed by the DPJ and Your Party.