The post-lunch session at AoIR 2015 is a panel on social media and elections that my colleague Tim Highfield and I are contributing to, but we begin with the excellent Anders Olof Larsson, whose focus is on recent Swedish elections. Sweden traditionally has a high level of election participation and substantial Internet and social media access, and social media have become increasingly visible in election campaigns, unsurprisingly this has increased over time.
The project followed the election-related hashtags #val2010 and #val2014, and there has been a substantial shift from making undirected statements on Twitter to using retweets to disseminate other users' tweets – and the most retweeted users during 2010 were Pirate Party candidates, some other politicians, and journalists. By 2014 the network has diversified considerably, and more journalists and media organisations have appeared. Also, subdivisions are appearing, and some separate sideline conversations are also present.
Uses of Facebook have similarly changed over time. Posting volume by political parties on Facebook has varied wildly over the years, with the Pirate Party and the Feminist Initiative Party remaining most active also outside of the election periods themselves, while other parties ramp up their activities considerably only during the campaigns.
Sharing and commenting patterns for these parties also varied considerably – the right-wing Sweden Democrats always appear to receive a very large number of comments, though other parties are gaining more shares; only in 2014 do the Social Democrats gain more comments and shares than the Sweden Democrats.