Digital democracy Poland
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From Hashtags to Votes: Social Media Patterns in Poland’s 2023 Parliamentary Elections

The report was written by Francesca Giannaccini (DRI), Tobias Kleineidam (DRI) and Jan Nicola Beyer (DRI), with contributions from Sonia Horonziak (IPA) and Filiip Pazderski (IPA). 

In the aftermath of the 2023 Polish Parliamentary elections, a seismic shift in the nation's political landscape has emerged, redefining the dynamics that have prevailed since 2015. The opposition, a diverse coalition spanning centrist, centre-right, and left-wing ideologies, seized the majority of votes from the long-standing Law and Justice (PiS) party. This political watershed was underscored by the historic 74.4 percent voter turnout, signalling not only a transformation in Poland's domestic politics but also hinting at potential recalibrations in its relationship with the European Union.

Our comprehensive report delves into the intricate role played by social media in shaping the unprecedented political upheaval during these elections. Examining the digital landscape on platforms such as Facebook and X (formerly Twitter), the report meticulously analyses the quantity and impact of digital engagements by various political actors. Unveiling the nuanced aspects of the online discourse, it scrutinises the tone and sentiment, identifies key topics and narratives, and assesses the influence of social media strategies on voter perceptions and electoral outcomes.

The findings, extracted through meticulous research, present a fascinating juxtaposition of frequency versus resonance in digital engagement. The report highlights instances where high posting frequency did not necessarily translate into successful audience resonance. Notably, the leaders of the far-right Confederation party exemplified this, posting prolifically but failing to engage effectively with the online audience. Furthermore, the report unveils the strategic emphasis on negative campaigning by certain candidates, especially from PiS, who concentrated more on criticising adversaries than promoting their own platforms.

A significant exploration within the report centres around the prevalence of negative sentiments in political communication. Notably, while negativity was discernible in the rhetoric of several candidates, it did not invariably manifest as toxicity. Importantly, only a small percentage of posts exhibited toxicity, ensuring that the online discourse largely maintained a level of decorum. The report, however, acknowledges the limitations of its scope, focusing solely on official social media accounts and excluding private or unofficial channels where toxicity might proliferate.

Delving into specific narratives that shaped the election, the report underscores the pivotal role of the Russian war against Ukraine. Parties like PiS and Confederation strategically utilised this issue to mobilise voters, with PiS initially expressing support for Ukraine but gradually aligning with Confederation's critical stance. Additionally, migration emerged as a central theme in the campaign discourse, with both the government and opposition leveraging it to instill fear and emotional resonance among voters.

Read the full report now to explore the nuanced dynamics that shaped one of the most pivotal moments in Poland's recent history.

Access the Report

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This work is supported by

Stiftung Mercator