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German elections on social media: upswing for Schulz, AfD followers most active
From:Xinhua  |  2017-09-22 19:32

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BERLIN, Sept. 22 (Xinhua) -- Chancellor candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) Martin Schulz has gained the most followers on social media thanks to his campaign's final efforts two days before the federal elections in Germany.

A total of 150,000 users have followed Schulz on Facebook and Twitter over the past 30 days, according to an evaluation by the German Press Agency published Friday.

Although not personally represented on Twitter, incumbent Chancellor Angela Merkel leads the overall ranking with around 2.5 million people following her on Facebook alone, a significant lead over candidate Schulz who has a combined total of 986,000 followers on Facebook and Twitter.

Free Democratic Party (FDP) leader Christian Lindner ranks second with around 85,000 new followers over the past 30 days. The Left co-chair Sahra Wagenknecht reached 50,000 new followers during the same period, closely followed by Alice Weidel of the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party with 48,000 new followers.

These figures do not necessarily indicate the election outcome. Many users follow politicians in the social networks simply to stay informed about their postings and there are a number of automated social media bots among the users.

The AfD-politician Weidel leads the ranking among the chancellor candidates in terms of interaction of her social media followers over the past 30 days. In direct relation to the number of followers, Weidel's users contributed the most interactions, such as likes and comments, per posting both on Facebook and Twitter.

A study conducted by Oxford University finds that the AfD is also the overall most discussed party on Twitter by analyzing the hashtags of the tweets over 10 days between Sept. 1 to 10.

Almost 30 percent of all tweets concerning the upcoming election had a reference to the AfD, 15 percent of which were generated by social media bots. No other party has that many automatically generated tweets.

Since the study did not differentiate between supportive, critical and neutral messages, nor the reach of the individual postings, no conclusions can be drawn concerning the election outcome. However, it strongly underlines the controversial nature of the right-wing populist party with its provocative antics.