Toronto, ON – A new Ipsos Public Affairs study examining the use of social media for discourse and information on public policy, social and political issues reveals that more than half (52%) of Canadians are using social media either ‘actively’ (29%) to make their voices heard or ‘passively’ (23%) to gain a greater understanding of the issues.
To put it in perspective, 52% is more than the typical voter turnout for most municipal elections, hovering around turnout for many provincial elections, and is drastically higher than the proportion of the vote that any federal political party receives. These 52% of Canadians transcend boundary, gender, generation or political affiliation – it is a critical mass of Canadians who are participating in the dialogue and the shaping of this country.
With so many Canadians engaged online, this places Canada 7th overall (in terms of overall population) out of 24 countries surveyed, ahead of countries like Great Britain (52%), the United States (47%), Germany (46%), and Japan (25%), but behind South Korea (65%), Australia (58%) and Sweden (57%).
As more people go online every day, they are defining the issues we discuss and making their voices heard. In doing so, they may be re-shaping politics, journalism and the very nature of our society, especially since Canada is one of the world’s leaders in Internet usage.
Why Does It Matter?
First, Canada is an online country – meaning that Canadians have the capability and the opportunity to be online discussing issues of the day. Canada (84%) ties for third, with Great Britain, globally in terms of Internet penetration, ahead of countries like Japan (80%), the United States (78%), and China (40%) and trailing only Sweden (93%) and Australia (89%).
Second, we assume that someone who is actively engaged online or in social media discussing issues of politics or public policy is trying to influence and inform others. At the very least, they like to be informed on various subjects of interest to them. This creates a willing audience for ideas, messages and discourse relating to policy, politics or other social issues.
Third, the existence of this sizeable group of interested Canadians presents the opportunity to create activists that can be mobilized in support of a cause. It can take as little as ten percent of the population (or less than one–fifth of those engaged in social media on these topics) to influence the other 90% of the population. This opens up a whole new world for public discourse, information, debate and behavioural impact, where those who are active in social media can have a disproportionate amount of influence on others.
Who’s Active and Who’s Not?
Social media transcends gender. There isn’t an extreme difference between online Canadian men and women when it comes to social media engagement on issues relating to public policy, social, or political issues. Women (37%) barely edge out men (34%) in being ‘active’ users.
Younger Canadians (48%), ages 18-34, are more likely than their middle-aged (35%) and older (22%) counterparts to be ‘active’ in terms of social media engagement. Only one in four (23%) younger Canadians online are ‘inactive’, compared to four in ten (40%) middle-aged Canadians online and half (50%) of older Canadians online.
An interesting finding in the data reveal a unique contrast in public policy, social, and political issue engagement via social media when looking at income and education levels. Those most likely to be ‘actively’ engaged with these issues are those earning lower incomes (45%), while those earning higher incomes (29%) are least likely to be ‘active’, with those earning middle incomes falling in between (36%). Half (50%) of online Canadians with higher levels of education engage in social media ‘actively’.
Issue Importance Across Engagement Levels
Posed a list of top issues and asked to prioritize their top three, the data reveal some notable differences between active, passive, and inactive social media users.
The top issue for both active (40%) and passive (40%) users was ‘unemployment and jobs’, compared to half (49%) of inactive users who cited ‘healthcare’ as their top issue priority.
Interestingly, active users are more likely to indicate that ‘poverty and social inequality’ (35% vs. 22% passive/23% inactive users), ‘education’ (23% vs. 18% passive/17% inactive), and ‘threats against the environment’ (20% vs. 16% passive/11% inactive) are priority issues, while passive and inactive users are more likely to prioritize ‘crime and violence’ (23%/22% vs. 14% active) and ‘taxes’ (33%/34% vs. 25% active).
For the full report on the use of social media for public and political discourse, please click here.
These are some of the findings of an Ipsos Global @dvisor poll conducted in March 2013. The survey instrument is conducted monthly in 24 countries via the Ipsos Online Panel system. The countries reporting herein are Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United States of America. An international sample of 18,008 adults aged 18-64 in the US and Canada, and age 16-64 in all other countries, were interviewed. Approximately 1000+ individuals participated on a country by country basis except in Argentina, Hungary, Indonesia, Mexico, Poland, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Russia and Turkey, where each have a sample 500+. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics and ensure that the sample's composition reflects that of the adult population according to the most recent country Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. The precision of Ipsos online polls are calculated using a credibility interval. In this case, a poll of 1,000 is accurate to +/- 3.5 percentage points and one of 500 is accurate to +/- 5.0 percentage points in their respective general populations. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error. For more information on credibility intervals, please visit the Ipsos website at http://ipsos-na.com/dl/pdf/research/public-affairs/IpsosPA_CredibilityIntervals.pdf
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