Nigel Farage hails Ukip's social media nous for ditching 'old colonels' image and wooing younger votes
Ukip leader Nigel Farage has hailed the impact of its social media efforts for ditching its image as a party for “retired old colonels” and galvanising support among younger voters during the General Election.
The party has endured a frustrating election after gaining around 12 per cent of the national vote and so far only one MP. Despite its inability to put bums on seats, the outspoken Farage claimed the results had revealed it had won “new votes” from people under 30.
He did not go into any further detail about where in the country the support had been gained but credited it to its endeavours on social media, particularly in reaching younger women. Through a mix of Facebook and Twitter, the party consistently hijacked the political agenda to ensure daily coverage for their party along the campaign trail, a strategy which repeatedly warned of the so-called threat of Labour and the Scottish National Party working together as polling day drew closer.
“There has been a change in our vote,” said Farage. “There's no doubt that quite a lot of our older voters who have supported us in the country elections, have supported us in the European elections, but have for fear of the SNP left us for the moment and voted Conservative. What is really clear is that the pickup in vote has been due to our success on social media and it's now under 30s that are beginning to vote for Ukip in significant numbers.”
The party has continually been associated with older, disenfranchised voters for whom Conservative supporters had switched to as it became its stance became more centred. While Ukip's move into social media was somewhat out of necessity due to its inability to compete with the marketing might of Labour and the Conservatives, it has seemingly been able to harness the medium for prospects.
Farage’s praise of social media’s ability to influence younger voters comes after Twitter data highlighted the micro-blogging site’s ability to shift people’ attitudes about politics and voting. Nearly half (45 per cent) of Twitter users aged 18-to-34 years old became interested in or joined a political or social cause that they learned about through Twitter, according to research from Promise Communispace commissioned by the micro-blogging site.
Ukip saw Facebook interactions rocket 60.8 per cent in recent weeks, according to the social network, more than the Liberal Democrats (53.8 per cent), the SNP (53.8 per cent), the Conservatives (48.7 per cent) and Labour (46.9 per cent).
“I've seen Ukip, apparently a party for the retired old colonels, is suddenly the party for people under 30s, particularly young working women. There is a big change going on in politics.”
The change Farage is referring to is the need to political reform, one he said Ukip would “radically campaign” for moving forward. The party, which built a lot of its social media activity around Farage's personality and public profile, will need to come up with an effective way to push for political reform online if it is to come up to fill the void formed in the wake of Farage's exit.
The Ukip leader has now resigned having failed to retain the South Thanet seat. He lost out on the Kent seat to the Conservative's Craig MacInlay.