GE 2020: The “Covid-Election” That Wasn’t

Results from Singapore’s 2020 vote turned just about every pre-election prediction on its head. What happened? Here’s my post-mortem of the silent earthquake that rocked Singapore politics on July 10.

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Elderly voters queuing up to vote on July 10, 2020, in an election that was shaped by the Covid-19 in form, but not necessarily in substance. Photo: Chua Chin Hon
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Full results of GE 2020 can be found here.

1. DATA, DEFINITIONS AND CAVEATS

This article is based on over 8,000 GE-related FB posts from 15 public FB pages in Singapore between June 22 (a day before the election was announced) and July 11 (a day after Polling Day).

  • Data from other social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn were not included as FB is the dominant platform, by far, for Singaporeans when it comes to news consumption.
  • To keep things simple, no weight was assigned to each form of user interaction. This means someone sharing or commenting on a GE breaking news story is regarded no differently from a user who merely pressed the “Angry” button. But in reality, sharing and commenting are seen as more important forms of social media behaviour as they reflect a higher level of involvement on the part of the users.

2. WHITHER THE “FLIGHT TO SAFETY”?

The first Covid-19 case in Singapore was confirmed on January 23, with the outbreak peaking in April when thousands of new cases were discovered in the dormitories for foreign workers.

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3. OF JOBS AND “BLANK CHEQUES”

The number of dominant campaign themes in GE 2020 is surprisingly small despite the appearance of an endless stream of political content, as I noted in an earlier article. The PAP stuck to its core message of “jobs, jobs, jobs”, while the Opposition, particularly the WP, focused on urging voters not to give the ruling party a “blank cheque” for passing unpopular policies.

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Click here to see the video on the left, and here for the video on the right.

4. THE “SENGKANG SURPRISE”

Sengkang GRC is one of a handful of new wards carved out for GE 2020. Most analysts expected the WP’s team of mostly newcomers to give the PAP team a good fight, and did not think that a major upset was in store.

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Click here to see the video on the left, and here for the video on the right.

5. ELECTION DAY MOOD METERS

As results came in on Election Night, a mood meter of reactions on FB further confirms the signals we’ve seen in Sengkang and with regards to the “enthusiasm gap” between the competing messages from the parties.

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This chart is based on 166 FB posts from the seven media outlets between 8.03am and 10.58pm on July 10.

6. IMPLICATIONS

The FB analytics seen here is only a limited proxy for the broader public conversations taking place in multiple platforms and “dark social” channels like WhatsApp and Telegram, where user metrics are far more elusive.

7. BONUS SECTION: THE MEDIA BATTLE AND THE YOUTH AUDIENCE

Big events like GE 2020 can shape readership habits in a big way, and I was curious about how the key local media outlets performed in this election. The chart below is based on around 3,000 GE-related FB posts by the seven media outlets between June 23 and July 11.

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Day-to-day breakdown of total daily interactions for GE-related FB posts from the seven media outlets throughout GE 2020.
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Data Science | Media | Politics

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