In the weeks building up to the 2019 elections in South Africa, Twitter has been abuzz with conversation about the governance of the country. The political parties also did their part to drive these conversations as they tried to win over voters before voting day. So, as the votes are being tallied, is social media a true reflection of which party people will actually vote for?

In 2019, there have been over 3 million mentions on Twitter relating to the elections. Of these mentions, 85% of conversations were specifically about the African National Congress (ANC), Democratic Alliance (DA) or Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

Share of voice (SOV) in Twitter conversation about the 2019 elections in SA.

As one would expect, volumes increased as 8 May (voting day) approached with mentions peaking on the day of the South African elections 2019.

Total volume of Twitter conversation about the 2019 elections

Considering that the EFF was only founded in 2013, the party has the most followers on Twitter at 749k, followed by the ANC with 655k followers then the DA (533k followers).

Total number of followers on Twitter per the EFF, ANC and DA

Despite social efforts such as #EFFRedFriday, which trended every week consistently building up to voting day, the ANC was mentioned the most in 2019. What’s more, #IAmVotingEFF was the second most used hashtag in South Africa on voting day with over 22k uses.

Total tweets and retweets about the EFF, DA and ANC on Twitter in SA.

How many times each party was mentioned online is one thing, but was what was said good or bad?

Although the ANC was mentioned the most on Twitter, negative sentiment was also the highest. The EFF received the most positivity.

Sentiment about the most mentioned political parties in South Africa in 2019.

So, what does it mean?

Social media can be deceptive:

  • Not everyone who shows their support for a political party on social media is actually going to vote for them.
  • Having the most followers doesn’t necessarily mean you’re the most popular.
  • Even if most online conversation is negative towards a particular party, it isn’t necessarily an indication of how the votes will go.