Impact of Social Media on US Elections

September 14, 2016

When the first public tweet was sent on March 21 2006, people were oblivious of the impact of these 140 character messages on the U.S. presidential elections in the next decade. President Obama was the first U.S. president to use the social media platform effectively as part of his overall campaign strategy in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. Obama’s social-media savvy campaign was highly influential in reaching out to young voters and minority groups. In 2008, McCain focussed more on traditional methods such as TV advertisements to reach voters whereas Romney was unable to match Obama’s reach on social networks in 2012. Democrats won the social media battle on both occasions, which definitely had an impact on the outcome of these elections.

Americans are on a steady rise turning to social media for news and political information. Not only do they want to be updated, but they also want other to be involved in a cause or a movement. Social Media can also serve as an important platform where groups with common interests come together to share ideas and interests. The importance of leveraging social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to reach and influence the electorate, especially young voters, has grown significantly with the smartphone penetration among Americans rising from only 35% in 2012 to over 64% at present and the proportion of adults using social networking sites increasing from 7% in 2005 to 65% in 2015.

Social media user demographics in the U.S.

Usage of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter is highest among adults in the 18-29 age group. Various studies have indicated that the political views of younger voters are heavily influenced by what they read on social media including.

Managing Finances

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, candidates for the 2016 presidential elections, have a strong social media presence. Social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have figured predominantly in their advertising strategies to reach out to millennials or adults aged 18-35 years, who will account for almost 31% of the 224 million eligible voters in the U.S. presidential election to be held this year. Although voters in this age group are less likely to cast their ballot as compared to the older voters (only 46% of eligible voters in the 18-35 age group voted in the 2012 presidential election), there is no doubt that this segment of the voting population is expected to have a substantial influence in the election of the 45th president of the United States.

Both the candidates are using social media campaigns to generate a lot of interest and excitement around their campaigns.

  • Donald Trump has been able to reduce the cost of advertising significantly by using social media network to communicate with voters, spread their messages and inform people about his policies
  • Trump and Clinton are using social media platforms to raise funds for their campaigns
  • All the data that exists within the social network is being used effectively by the candidates to target the right voters with the right message.

Let’s look again at the current run-up to the 2016 presidential elections. It has been not only amusing but also weird and definitely interesting thanks to social media. If it was not for the middle-man Social Media, we would have never seen the ever so hysterical snap of Hillary chillin’ or we would have never learnt about those offbeat Trump-isms. Besides Social media has also altered the way campaigns are carried out and elections are debated thus building a library of discourse and support. All this can be getting lost very easily. Thus in order to maintain all the updates there are now several dashboard that can get installed and easily used, which would include Daily social mentions, Social Sentiments, Latest Tweet Feeds, Latest Presidential Elections Tweet feed to mention a few.

Managing Finances

Residing in a nation where there are over 985 million Facebook posts a day and 400 million new tweets, to reach their target demographic, candidates are using the power of social media to generate support. Social media expenditure is estimated to account for more than half of the $1 billion budget set aside for digital media in this campaign, with efforts particularly directed at the so-called millennial demographic, young adults born between the early 1980s and early 1990s.

Candidates are definitely showing an affinity towards social media, but it’s not only them, also websites like Twitter, Google, Facebook, Snapchat are also warming up the politicos too.

Twitter decided to host events for election candidates. Facebook dedicated a team which meets candidates and offers assistance with Facebook’s advertising services. Google who by far is still the giant has announced to target people based on their geographical locations, language etc.

Long story short, the efforts of electoral candidates and their social media agencies seem to be concentrated towards winning affection of millennials (25 to 34 year olds), and although no one can say today which candidate is going to win the elections later this year, one thing is clear: social media is winning the elections today.