Social Media and Politics

When the last presidential election took place four years ago, social media was still on the rise (Pinterest and Google+ hadn’t even launched yet!), but over the past few years, new information-sharing websites have popped up and society has dived even further into the world of interactive platforms.

We already saw how social media affected the 2012 Olympics (read the article here) and it looks like the story is no different for the 2012 election. Major platforms like Twitter and Facebook are affecting the way people vote, contributing to candidate exposure, and helping raise campaign funds.

Voting

Facebook is a major influence when it comes to voting. For this year’s election, Facebook and CNN teamed up to create the “I’m Voting” app for Facebook. The app lets you see where your friends stand on politics by giving you a map of supported issues and candidates and encourages you to take the “Voting Pledge” by clicking the “Yes, I’m Voting” button.

Facebook may also reach out to users on Election Day like they did in 2010. During the Congressional elections, Facebook conducted an experiment to see how many users it could affect. The site posted a message at the top of users’ news feeds on Election Day reminding them to vote and giving them the opportunity to click an “I Voted” button. In response, it inspired 340,000 people to vote.

The site even took voting one step further this year and teamed up with Microsoft to create an app that allows residents in Washington to register to vote through the secretary of state’s Facebook.

Campaign Fundraising

Many political figures have already jumped on the social media wagon: According to an article by Laurence Cruz, over 90 percent of senators and House members, 42 governors, and 35 world leaders all have Twitter accounts. This includes both Obama and Mitt Romney. The two candidates also have Facebook accounts and in addition, the Obama campaign has its own separate Twitter and Facebook account.

Both candidates use these platforms to reach millions of users in order to raise funds for their campaigns. They focus on discussing popular topics, posting important information, and connecting with supporters, which has proven to be successful. In fact, during the 2008 election, 87% of the money that Obama raised in campaign donations was done online (according to Resource Nation).

Candidate Exposure

As major political events occur, social media makes it easy to tell how users feel about each candidate. For example, during the vice presidential debate, Paul Ryan made a comment about Jack Kennedy and Joe Biden responded sarcastically by saying, “Oh, now you’re Jack Kennedy?” Almost immediately, Twitter users responded with over 58,000 tweets per minute about the incident.

As another example, during the Republican National Convention, Clint Eastwood made a speech to an empty chair meant to represent President Obama. Minutes after the speech ended, a Twitter account titled “Invisible Obama” emerged and gained over 6,000 followers. The next day, Obama used social media to respond by posting a photo of a chair and a caption that said “This seat’s taken” on both his Twitter and Facebook account.

So… do you use social media to stay up-to-date on political news? And if so, which platform is your favorite?

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