Over the last several months, candidates and citizens made Twitter the destination for breaking news and real-time public discussions about the #LokSabhaElections2019.
The world’s largest and longest democratic election spanned six weeks and culminated in Counting Day when India determined its Prime Minister, Narendra Modi (@NarendraModi), through the election of 534 Members of Parliament across 29 states 7 union territories.
The news broke on Twitter through this historic Tweet that received hundreds of thousands of Replies, Retweets and Likes in the span of a few minutes, making it the most Retweeted Tweet of the election.
Emphasising the importance of engaging in public dialogue on the platform, Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) conceded the election through this livestream from @INCIndia as well as this Tweet.
Twitter served the public conversation and showcased democratic dialogue. The volume of conversation around #LokSabhaElections2019 including Tweets from candidates, political parties, citizens and the news media ensured that from 1 January 2019 till 23 May 2019, Twitter saw more than 396 million Tweets on the platform, nearly a 600% growth from 2014.
3.2 million Tweets were observed on Counting Day itself, with 1/3rd of the Tweets being recorded between 3 and 4pm, at the same hour that Prime Minister Modi Tweeted.
Despite being an election for the Indian Prime Minister, the impact of #LokSabhaElections2019 was felt across the world. Conversations unfolded across the globe, with world leaders, celebrities and Indian diaspora engaging in dialogue about the new government.
Throughout the campaign period, politicians and political parties used Twitter to communicate with Indian citizens in the country and across the world, while citizens took to the platform to address their queries directly to contesting leaders. @NarendraModi emerged as the most mentioned figure during the entire course of #LokSabhaElections2019, and @BJP4India handle along with the handles of their National Democratic Alliance members took 53% of the mentions on Twitter. The @INCIndia handle along with handles of other members of the United Progressive Alliance received 37% of the mentions. Here are the leaders who were most mentioned on the platform during this election period.
As in any town square, Indians were interested in a variety of different topics of conversation, and took to the service to discuss the issues that mattered most to them through Hashtags, Replies and Retweets. During the course of the six weeks of the election from 11th April till 19th May, national security emerged as the most talked about election-related topic on Twitter, followed by religion, jobs and employment, agriculture, and finally demonetisation.
With the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its lead campaigner Prime Minister Narendra Modi receiving a landslide victory in the #LokSabhaElections2019, celebrities and leaders took to the platform to share their congratulatory messages.
Along with a growth in the volume of conversation, 2019 saw a 600% growth over the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the #LokSabhaElections2019 emoji featured hashtags across Indian languages, not just English and Hindi. While English and Hindi remained the dominant languages of conversation, we saw a substantial number of Tweets in Tamil (#நாடாளுமன்றதேர்தல்) followed by Gujarati (#લોકસભાચૂંટણી), represented by the use of the Twitter Lok Sabha Elections emoji hashtags.
Our focus was on ensuring parity of representation in conversation regardless of where the candidates were from, which is why particular focus for this Lok Sabha election was placed on onboarding regional and diverse voices that represent India. In the last year alone, ten regional political parties joined Twitter in the months leading up to the elections. Post 2014, prominent politicians including @RahulGandhi and @Mayawati, among others, made their debuts on social media with Twitter. The platform also collaborated with civil society partners like @YlacIndia, @ReDiSocials, @ImpulseNGO, @SociallyBlog hosting election events across the country, focusing on the importance of the youth vote, the use of social media for elections and other agendas for 2019.
Twitter also built original programming with key partners in an effort to serve the public conversation, we launched the #ChaupalOnTwitter series, which helped candidates engage with their constituents, receiving more than 1 million views across 19 sessions. Credible news partners showcasing all sides of the story, including veteran journalist Vikram Chandra launching a Twitter-first show called #TwitterDialogues, which accrued more than 1.6 million video views, while a range of credible news partners live-streamed content on Twitter during Counting Day.
Our #PowerOf18 campaign also emphasised the importance of the youth vote by partnering with key influencers like Bollywood star Rajkummar Rao, actor Rithvik Dhanjani, singer and actor Jassie Gill and gold medal-winning boxing champ Nikhat Zareen. These videos accrued more than 5 million views on Twitter. While heading to the polls is critical for any democracy, the campaign also showcased the importance of engaging in civic dialogue. Through a special research study commissioned, Twitter found that two in three Indian Twitter users believe that they are contributing to the public debate by Tweeting on Twitter.
The health of the public conversation on Twitter is critical during elections, which is why we took key steps and action to protect the integrity of the #LokSabhaElections2019. Along with adhering to the social media code of conduct as part of the Election Commission of India and IAMAI, we created an elections-specific support portal for election partners to provide feedback directly to us about issues and concerns. We also rolled out a special reporting feature that enabled users to report any Tweets that provided misleading information to voters during the election, and expanded the Ads Transparency Centre to bring transparency to political campaign advertising. Anyone was able to access the dashboard to view political campaign ads that have been served on Twitter including spending and targeting details.
Post-elections, Twitter will continue to work together with elected officials, government entities, industry peers, outside experts, and other stakeholders to enable citizens to continue to feel empowered in engaging their elected representatives through dialogue and healthy conversations on Twitter.