Skip to main content

The 2016 Political Race and Social Media

As the 2016 political race continues, candidates are looking at as many ways to reach ┬ávoters as possible – including social media. According to Pew Research, up to 16% of voters follow politics using social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.), up from 10% in 2010. From Hillary Clinton’s Facebook posts reaching out to voters to Donald Trump’s Twitter messages calling out other candidates, most candidates are making some sort of effort to appear on social media. It’s unclear how effective social media will be in bringing political messages to the masses, but it has great potential to shift elections. One benefit that social media brings to candidates is access to the millennial voter base, something that many candidates (including many republican candidates) severely lack. Access to a new voter base can shift elections in favor of those who can curry favor with them. A second benefit that differentiates social media from other forms of political advertising is how it spreads. Voters can spread a political message by telling a neighbor about a TV ad, or a political billboard, but social media allows people to “share” posts with other potential voters, directly exposing them to the candidates message.

We can model the spread of candidates message as a network, with ties existing between people who have spread the message to each other. At the center of this network exists the candidate, and his inner party, his campaign managers and staff. Spreading from the center would be a number of ties that represent people reading billboards, or receiving phone calls, or watching TV ads. However, this network and the social media network, while having a bit of overlap, tend to be rather disconnected. Younger people who use social media are less likely to watch political ads on TV or talk to political advertisers on the phone. Instead, they get their political information on the internet, which is separate from conventional political advertising. Adding social media to a campaign allows candidates to gain access to these networks. Now the two disjoint networks have become connected, enabling candidates to gain even more votes for the election. This merging of networks is going to be more and more important as more and more people begin to use social networks.



Leave a Reply

Blogging Calendar

September 2015