Dissertation Research 3/10/2011
Day four of Politics Wales’ look at social media and its impact on politics in Wales. Daniel Hewitt talks to Plaid Assembly Member Bethan Jenkins fresh from her young politicians internship in the USA where President Obama showed the political expediency of social media.
For Bethan Jenkins, the message is clear: ‘politicians cannot afford not to be on social media sites’.
She claims to be the first Assembly Member to sign up to Twitter, after being advised by a friend that it would be ‘a new phenomenon’, and she now believes social networking sites should be used to ‘enthuse the next generation of young people’ to participate and engage in politics in Wales.
As Assembly Member for South Wales West, Ms Jenkins believes websites like Twitter and Facebook are invaluable tools for communicating directly with her constituents and the Welsh electorate as a whole.
The impact of social media on political participation in Wales, she says, is clear for all to see and the potential for further participation will be even greater:
“Students in Wales were mobilised to protest against tuition fee increases almost solely through social media sites. It allowed them to access more people than the hundreds that would exist on the streets.
“Sites like Facebook and Twitter allow political movements as well as political parties to gather information and create databases from people on these sites. Social media is the way political campaigning will be going in the future.”
According to Ms Jenkins the use of the internet is especially important in a country likes Wales, where media coverage of politics is fairly limited:
“If our voices are not heard in the mainstream press as much as we would like or as much as would be possible, then using the internet is a very useful tool.
“We have used Twitter to launch Twibbon in support of the Yes campaign [on further law making powers for the Welsh Assembly] and in the coming months social networks will be invaluable in enthusing the next generation of young Welsh people to come out and vote for more powers for Wales, because they will be the ones putting these powers into practice.”
The Plaid Cymru AM however believes that we are yet to see the full impact of social networking forums on Welsh political participation.
“At the beginning there was hardly any politicans or anybody from the political domain on websites like Twitter, now there are many more.
“But it’s only just become more important because we’ve learned from the USA how these websites have grown and we’ve adaopted how to use them here.”