Election 2015

One month in: Voters' views on the digital election

BBC Asian Network's case studies are filmed checking out political messages on social media

More than 1,000 of this year's parliamentary hopefuls are targeting potential voters across the digital spectrum, from Facebook to Twitter to Instagram.

As many as 30,000 tweets are being sent a week - and Facebook is being bombarded with posts from across the political divide.

Unsurprisingly, that level of engagement, from both the public and politicians, is seeing a huge surge during key events.

During the main leaders' debate around 260,000 tweets were sent - and that's not counting the ones in the days sent just before and after the broadcast.

But what impact is this focus on social media having on people who, on 7 May, will be going to the polls?

BBC Asian Network and the cross-party think-tank Demos have teamed up to look at the digital campaign from the point of view of three young, passionate and - most importantly - undecided voters.

Over a month into this experiment, how are they feeling about the digital campaigns being fought out on their laptops, smart phones and tablets?

Sakib Rashid, 20

Bio-medical student Sakib Rashid, 20, is a first time voter from London's Brent North constituency, a seat held by Labour back in 2010.

Over 50% of eligible voters are predicted to be foreign-born, Sakib being one of them.

His parents fled hardships in Bangladesh back in the 1980s, arriving in the UK with little money and forced into benefits. It's had a huge effect on him.

"I never want to claim benefits," he said. "It's not something I'd feel proud of doing. It's not something I want to do, I don't want to rely on the government to support myself."

For the last six weeks he's been following the election campaign on social media and has become increasingly fed-up with the negative comments he's reading.

"I don't want to see them just making snide comments or little puns or going back to five, 10 years ago and the mistakes they made."

He says it's getting better though. "More recently I've seen Liberal Democrats, Labour and Conservatives trying to appeal to voters, saying: 'We will promise this - and we have introduced this policy,' so there has been a small shift and I like that."

Simmi Juss, 32

Thirty-two year old recruitment consultant Simmi Juss is voting in the key marginal battleground of Wolverhampton South West. Captured by the Tories in 2010, Labour is hoping to win it back in May.

Simmi has also noticed a negative and sometimes aggressive tone in her social media newsfeeds. She would rather see more positive points being made, like the videos posted of politicians visiting places of worship.

A message from David Cameron wishing Sikhs "a happy Vaisakhi" gets her approval. "It's a really nice way of reaching out to Sikh people - it felt genuine," she said.

Her husband Tony is not so sure though, feeling the timing of such videos smacks of opportunism. "I don't think there's a need to bring religion into politics," he says.

Ultimately though, it's local politics that really matters to her. "Wolverhampton hasn't got the best reputation for various reasons and I think it's better than that. But you just have to look around to see the empty shops and some of the deprived areas to know it does need investment."

Iram Asim, 31

In Scotland, a number of polls suggest the political landscape of the country could be about to see huge changes.

Iram Asim, 31, has just moved from Livingston to the constituency of Linlithgow and Falkirk East. Labour held the seat with a massive majority in 2010, but they are facing a strong challenge this time from the SNP.

She's not at all surprised by the surge in political engagement she has seen on social media.

"Our local representative has been talking about how after the referendum the view towards politics has changed. I do agree with that - I think it's different now. A lot of people who maybe weren't interested in politics I would definitely say are now."

Even though Iram is torn between Labour and the SNP, she says it is a Green Party video mocking up the male party leaders as a boy band, which has most caught her attention on social media. "It made me laugh," she said. "It was different, cheeky and gets your attention. It made them stand out."

But Iram has also been turned off by some of the negative campaigning.

For Carl Miller, at Demos, it's an interesting insight. "Positive campaigning has remained the dominant theme, although underlying all of that is a well of frustration and anger, causing politicians to lose their temper, to insult each other," he said.

So as the campaign hots up and the election day grows closer, will the huge efforts being pumped on to the digital platforms make a difference?

It's a question party HQ strategists will desperately want answered. With the nation going to the polls imminently, politicians are spending more and more resources and money on their digital strategies in what is being called the UK's "first social media election".

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