Credit: Al Waters/Capital News

Wilkinson surges, Watts sinks on social media as BC Liberals race heats up

Analyst says former favourite Dianne Watts has lost her lead in online engagement

  • Nov. 30, 2017 4:15 p.m.

For pundits and political analysts, party leadership races are difficult contests to predict. The most recent example is the 2017 federal NDP leadership race, won by Jagmeet Singh, a relative newcomer who was not on anyone’s radar. The BC Liberal leadership race, to be decided Feb. 3, is no exception: predicting a winner will be tricky, but there are new definitive ways to assess who is leading (p.s. – it’s not Dianne Watts).

Conventional wisdom among political watchers holds that Dianne Watts is the front-runner in the contest. Media commentators spend time analyzing speeches and trying to interpret the significance of each campaign stop. But social media metrics can reveal the state of the race and provide hard numbers on who is leading, and why.

The latest analysis from Social Media ROI, a social media and research firm based in Western Canada, indicates that former Surrey Mayor Diane Watts did hold a lead in social media “share of voice” and extent of media coverage in October and early November. But her lead has since evaporated.

VIDEO: BC Liberal leadership candidates fight to add warmth to ‘jobs’ message

Heralded as an outsider untainted by past Liberal government decisions, Watts is now trailing the ultimate insider: former BC Liberals president Andrew Wilkinson. Other high profile former ministers Mike De Jong and Todd Stone round out the top contenders, with Sam Sullivan and Michael Lee trailing well back in terms of profile and momentum.

SMROi’s analysis of the BC Liberal leadership race focuses on several indicators. The first is media exposure for each candidate, including both traditional and online impressions. Wilkinson leads all candidates in exposure, displacing Watts from her early campaign lead.

“Share of voice” is calculated by the proportion of mentions and the key words associated with each candidate. Wilkinson has recently taken the lead over Watts in terms of share of voice (38%). Watts, who led in October with a 35 per cent share of voice, has since dropped to a 21 per cent share. Stone is currently running third (20% share of voice), followed closely by de Jong, who has a smaller share of voice but commands a larger media presence than Stone. Lee and Sullivan are lagging well behind.

READ: BC Liberal leadership candidates debate different paths for party

The third indicator — the tone of each campaign — is measured by positive or negative sentiments being expressed. These can shift quickly, so they are one of the strongest predictors of ultimate victory. Current sentiment in BC toward Stone and de Jong is improving, while Watts and Wilkinson sentiment is declining.

The final indicator, “engagement,” is measured by the extent of interaction each candidate has with potential voters, including “sharing metrics” such as retweets and Facebook posts, and the gender profiles of followers. So far, the engagement data paints a mixed picture of the leadership race. Despite some emerging negative momentum for Watts and Wilkinson, they have an advantage over the other two major candidates, Stone and de Jong, because they currently have more female followers. Engaging women is vital to winning over the electorate, SMROI maintains.

Regardless of who wins, the leadership race has generated extensive media coverage and stimulated thousands of conversations, with an average of almost 500,000 impressions per day over the past month, peaking recently due to a leaders debate in Nanaimo (1.2 million impressions November 19). Most of those media impressions originated from the Vancouver area (61%), but there is also a strong media presence in areas where the party needs to make inroads if it is to stage a comeback, such as on Vancouver Island, including Victoria (18%) and Nanaimo (6%).

– Bruce Cameron, president, Social Media ROi


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Oak Bay sailor stranded in U.S. hospital after suffering massive stroke at sea

Glenn Wakefield’s rescue involved five airplanes and took more than 48 hours

First fall storm expected to hit Greater Victoria tonight

Heavy rainfall, winds expected over the next several days

UPDATED: Crews contain fire to attic of Central Saanich home

Firefighters are responding to a structure fire in Central Saanich

Canada West Golf Championships cancelled due to COVID-19 travel restrictions

UBC, UBC-O, UFV and UVic athletes will not hit the links this year, Kelowna was set to host

COVID-19: 4 more deaths, 366 new cases in B.C. since Friday

A total of 8,208 people in B.C. have tested positive for COVID-19 since January

POLL: Do you plan on allowing your children to go trick or treating this year?

This popular annual social time will look quite different this year due to COVID-19

Majority needed to pass COVID-19 budget, B.C. premier says

John Horgan pushes urgent care centres in first campaign stop

Nanaimo RCMP shut down illegal racing and stunt driving site

Police “swoop in” to seize vehicles and issue violation tickets

Public health officials urge Canadians to limit contacts again as COVID-19 cases rise

Canada has committed $1 billion to buy at least 154 million doses of vaccines from five different companies

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. could be without a new leader for multiple weeks after Election Day: officials

More than 20K mail-in voting packages were requested within a day of B.C. election being called

Vancouver Island family overwhelmed with 14 Lab puppies

Litter may be one of the biggest ever

Islands Trust Conservancy gets funding for protection of at-risk species

Conservancy manages habitat for more than 25 plant and animal species at risk

Most Read