Social Media Changes Elections For Students
Social media sites played a new, more pronounced role in this election, and had the potential to divide the public even more, a UA professor said.
With the rise of social media in elections, voters could choose which candidates or issues they want to follow. In the past, television advertisements would likely ensure a candidate good exposure to most voting citizens.
Social media has the capability to “make politics even more divisive,” said Janine Parry, a professor in the political science department at the UA.
Senior sport management major Jason Coffman said he thinks Obama won the last election because of his effective use of social media. However, Coffman does not allow what a candidate puts on twitter affect his decision.
“I read a variety of sources to get a balanced opinion,” Coffman said.
The day before this year’s election, President Barack Obama had 21,739,153 followers on Twitter while Gov. Mitt Romney had only 1,683,394 followers.
Similarly, Obama had 31,788,173 likes on facebook and Romney had 11,917,484 likes. Romney had a quarter of the combined likes and followers that Obama did.
It would seem that social media would only increase the level of voter interest, but sophomore journalism student Will Bowden said it really depends on how the candidates conducts themselves.
“I love it when it increases connectivity with the public,” Bowden said, “but when it is used as another form of attack advertisement it can really make me think negatively of the candidate.”
Social media use in elections is too new to have done a lot of solid research on it, but the goal is for it to have a mobilizing effect, Parry said.
According to the US Census Bureau, only 49.3 percent of 18-20-year-olds and 56.2 of 21-24-year-olds were registered to vote in the last presidential election. Almost ten percentage points fewer in each category actually voted.
The hope is that social media will lead to a higher rate of voting by people in these age categories, Parry said.