Posted June 30, 2007 9:22 am by with 9 comments

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With a nation-wide Federal election coming up this year, we thought we’d track Australian Prime Minister John Howard’s online reputation and find out what’s being said about him online.

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 – 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 ‘John Howard,’ the first result is his official site, [ ] and the second a neutral Wikipedia entry [ ]. But the third is a mock blog ‘allegedly written by John Howard,’ [ ] full of politically incorrect jokes aimed at Australians and politicians. And it is right near the top of the SERPs, even though it hasn’t had an entry since 2005! A great example of how an online conversation can linger (and influence) well beyond traditional media’s usual spin.

Seems like the PM’s spin doctors could be doing a little more to keep his online reputation intact at this crucial time…

  • Interesting write-up Jason. I think there are some serious opportunities being missed by politicians around the world at the moment with respect to the internet, never mind social media etc.

    I’m interested in the compulsory voting in Australia – is there an option to vote ‘none of the above’ or some other way of expressing dissatisfaction with the options available? If so, then I think this could actually be a reasonable system.

  • I’m not one to usually comment on blogs but I can’t let this one slip by.
    As an Aussie (and not a very young one) I cannot possibly agree that compulsory voting “causes some resentment”. Is this statement backed up by any facts? or just someone’s assumption?
    Being able to vote is both a right and a responsibility, one that the vast majority of Australians take very seriously. Australia was the second country in the world to grant women the right to vote in 1902, well before Britain and the USA. The first country was New Zealand (our neighbour) in 1893.

    To answer Will’s question, there is no “none of the above” however if someone chooses not to fill out the ballot paper and puts it with no options checked into the ballot box, that is seen as an informal vote and is not counted.

    One think you need to understand about the Australian culture is that we are a cynical lot, particularly about anyone in authority. It probably comes from the early convict background and wave after wave of immigrants who have come here seeking a better life of much greater equality and peace than the land they have left behind.

    You simply don’t get the huge political rallies and overt support for particular politicians (unless from the party faithful)here. We are much more understated and more inclined to “knock” (criticise – from “knock him down to size”) than compliment (especially a political leader).
    So as Jason says, “a common attitude…towards politicians is fairly negative” but it is NOT just the younger generation.

    My opinion? It’s time for John Howard to go and Kevin Rudd’s reinvigorated Federal Labor looks to be the force to bring about much needed change.

  • now, political activity should give a great attention to the online consensus

  • Hi Janet. Our post was really only attempting to reflect what we found from our 3 weeks of reputation management research.

    Of course it was not meant to be definitive – simply an observation. However, after reading through 2000+ individual references and posts relating to both the PM and Opposition Leader, this was definitely a common theme.

    Perhaps it’s simply a reflection of a pessimistic blogging community??

  • The problem is that if someone is commenting some polititian than there is ususaly negative feedback.
    It is also with our polititans. They are all of them bad according to comments on news servers or blogs but usualy people do not comment if something is done good way.

  • It’d be interesting to see how many back links that bogus blog has. Maybe that has something to do with it.

  • Seems to me like politicians should be the most mindful of their online reps as they are going to be easy targets of negative opinions.

  • It seems that the prime minister of Australia isnt spending as much time crafting his online reputation as he should.

    Take a look at the difference between

    I know the process of getting elected in the US is a lot different but the Australia but the US sites look more like they are selling the candidate more.

  • Geoff Colet

    A bit belated but I cant help thinking of the blatant false propaganda pre the election 2007.
    Namely that by unions and ALP re workplace relations. It sounded so unlike the legislation I had heard that I looked up the Act on internet.
    What I found was that the false anti AWAs would have made Dr Joseph Goebells ( Hitler’s propaganda minister ) proud.
    I did not hear of one journalist comment on it. TV publishers can be excused for staying quiet as it could have jepodised some lucrative advertising.
    However it worked. Just as under Natzi Germany, 1930s. I thought I would never hear Australians stoop so low.