Online campaigning had limited impact on voter behavior: exit polls

Only about 10 percent of voters said they took into account candidates' information on the Internet for the upper house election Sunday, according to Kyodo News exit polls, indicating that online campaigning which began from this national election had limited effects.

The exit polls showed that 86.1 percent said they did not refer to online campaigning when deciding who to vote for, compared with 10.2 percent who said they used Internet information in voting, although parties actively called for voters' support via the tool.

The revision to the Public Office Election Law enacted by the Diet in April enabled political parties and candidates to use Facebook, Twitter and other social networking tools as well as e-mail to drum up support during election campaigns, effective from Sunday's House of Councillors election.

According to four surveys conducted by Kyodo News from late June through mid-July, 39.4 percent of voters said they would refer to online campaigning in the first survey, but the number continued to decline in subsequent surveys to hit 25.6 percent in the last one.

In the exit polls, 23.9 percent of voters in their 20s said they took into account online campaigning, becoming the largest age group which showed interest in receiving information through the Internet.

Meanwhile, only 6.1 percent of voters in their 70s or older said they referred to online campaigning.

By political party, supporters of the Green Wind party accounted for the largest ratio of voters who valued Internet information with 19.4 percent, followed by the People's Life Party, the Japan Restoration Party, Your Party, the New Komeito party, the Liberal Democratic Party and the Japanese Communist Party.

Supporters of the Democratic Party of Japan and the Social Democratic Party made up the smallest ratio with 9.1 percent each.

Hayato Ikeda, a journalist well-versed in information technology, said online campaigning had a limited impact on Sunday's election as it was mainly one-way communication, with only candidates transmitting information.

"There was no major impact because of a lack of heated discussions on the Internet between candidates and voters," he said, adding a sluggish voter turnout, estimated at the lowest level since the upper house election in 1995, was another factor.

Some candidates managed to expand their support due to backing by famous people on Twitter, but most candidates failed to utilize the Internet well, Ikeda said. Candidates must "come up with ways to attract younger generations and get them involved in politics," he said.