Social Politics: The Impact of Social Networking on Political Campaigns

394 views

Published on

There’s no doubt that social media has changed politics. The question is, to what extent? Dr. George Hawley dispels the myths and dives into the latest research on the true impact of social media in politics — including the areas where campaigns can make a real impact.

This is a report of Voter Gravity, a political technology company that brings a powerful voter database, voter acquisition technology and a user-friendly mobile canvassing solution to campaigns and advocacy groups. Voter Gravity integrates innovative voter contact tools, an extensive voter database, and a user-friendly dashboard to capture voter contact information. For further product features, visit Voter Gravity’s features page at www.VoterGravity.com/features.

Published in: News & Politics
0 Comments
1 Like
Statistics
Notes
  • Be the first to comment

No Downloads
Views
Total views
394
On SlideShare
0
From Embeds
0
Number of Embeds
6
Actions
Shares
0
Downloads
8
Comments
0
Likes
1
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Social Politics: The Impact of Social Networking on Political Campaigns

  1. 1. Social Politics: The Impact of Social Networking on Political Campaigns By Dr. George Hawley, Assistant Professor of Political Science, The University of Alabama
  2. 2. votergravity.com It is now taken for granted that a strong online presence is indispensable for any “serious” political campaign. This now extends beyond a basic campaign website and includes the use of online social networking sites. Both Republicans and Democrats take social media very seriously, and professional consultants have made great sums managing candidates’ use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter. President Obama’s election and reelection campaign went to great lengths to effectively use these online resources, and some have attributed this to his great political success. It is said that the Obama campaign was able to successfully use Facebook to overcome the problems associated with reaching young voters in swing states that did not have listed telephone numbers.1 The media has touted the internet as a game-changer in American politics. We should be cautious before inferring that the internet was the key to President Obama’s electoral success. After all, if there was a direct, linear relationship between online enthusiasm and votes in the real world, Ron Paul would likely be in the White House. Like media commentators, professional political scientists have also taken a great interest in social media, and for several years have attempted to discern precisely how social media impacts American politics. There is suspicion among some scholars and commentators that internet activism, derisively called “slacktivism,” does not translate into any real-world significance. The state of political literature on politics and online social networking The media has touted the internet as a game-changer in American politics.
  3. 3. votergravity.com While some research indicates that social networking sites are fundamentally transforming politics, other work indicates that this has been overstated. Unfortunately, proving a direct link between the use of social media and political attitudes and behavior is more difficult than it first appears. Of course, if we rely on simple correlation, it appears that social media exerts a powerful influence on individual voters. After all, virtually everyone who followed President Obama on Facebook or Twitter ended up voting for him. This does not demonstrate a causal relationship. The more important question is how many of Obama’s online followers would have voted for him anyway. The obvious answer: almost all of them. Demonstrating that social media increases voter turnout, or even gets people to change their votes, is actually very difficult. However, the political science literature on this topic is now sufficiently developed to shed light on this tricky question. What follows is an overview of what the latest research tells us about online social networking and individual attitudes and behaviors. From this survey of the research, we learn the following: while online social networking is important and should not be neglected, no campaign should rely on it as a panacea, and it cannot replace old-fashioned campaign methods. Virtually everyone who followed President Obama on Facebook or Twitter ended up voting for him. This does not demonstrate a causal relationship. The more important question is how many of Obama’s online followers would have voted for him anyway. The bvious answer: almost all of them.
  4. 4. votergravity.com In November, 2012, the Pew Research Center released a report titled, “Social Media and Voting.”2 This report demonstrated the highly politicized nature of social media. According to this survey, 22% of registered voters used a social media site such as Facebook or Twitter to let others know how they voted. Thirty percent reported that they were encouraged to vote for either President Obama or Governor Romney by friends and family on a social networking site. Twenty percent used a social networking site to encourage others to vote. These numbers are even higher when we look exclusively at younger voters. Among voters under the age of 30, these percentages were 45 percent, 29 percent, and 34 percent, respectively. Respondents to this survey were asked about five different ways in which they were urged to vote for a specific candidate by a friend or family member. Face-to-face conversations remained the primary method by which people were asked to give their vote to either Romney or Obama, but the second most frequent method was via social networking sites – social networking sites were used for this purpose more frequently than e-mails, texts, or phone calls. Clearly, average voters are using online social networks to influence their friends and family on political matters. A significant percentage of Americans use social media to send and receive messages about politics 22%of registered voters used a social media site to let others know how they voted 45%of registered voters under 30 used social media to let others know how they voted  I VOTED
  5. 5. votergravity.com Voter Gravity is a campaign technology company that brings a powerful voter database, voter acquisition technology and a user-friendly mobile canvassing solution to campaigns and advocacy groups. Voter Gravity integrates innovative voter contact tools, an extensive voter database, and a user-friendly dashboard to capture voter contact information. For further product features, visit Voter Gravity’s features page at www.VoterGravity.com/features. Download full report here.

×