We tracked online references of both Howard and the opposition leader, Kevin Rudd, over a three week period, and the results are not looking so good for the PM.
Though most of online references come from news sites, and are mostly neutral, the more freely expressive bloggers sometimes had quite nasty things to say about John Howard, and there were not many on his side at all.
Rudd, on the other hand, though he had his fair share of nasty comments, actually had more backers than critics. This is a particularly positive response for Australia, where a common attitude, particularly from the younger generations, towards politicians is fairly negative (there were, in fact, quite a few bloggers with that opinion).
It is compulsory to vote in Australia â€“ a fact that causes some resentment. The politicians have a chance to use social media this election to attempt to bring the younger voters over to their side.
So what is social media doing for the Prime Minister right now?
When you Google â€˜John Howard,â€™ the first result is his official site, [www.pm.gov.au/ ] and the second a neutral Wikipedia entry [ en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Howard ]. But the third is a mock blog â€˜allegedly written by John Howard,â€™ [ johnhoward.blogspot.com/ ] full of politically incorrect jokes aimed at Australians and politicians. And it is right near the top of the SERPs, even though it hasnâ€™t had an entry since 2005! A great example of how an online conversation can linger (and influence) well beyond traditional mediaâ€™s usual spin.
Seems like the PMâ€™s spin doctors could be doing a little more to keep his online reputation intact at this crucial timeâ€¦