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Uses and Effects of Social Media During the 2012 Campaign

Examines some how social networking sites were used for political activity during the 2012 campaign. Explores some potenital effects of political activity on Facebook. Previews a couple of upcoming research projects in the Media & Interaction Lab.

Elizabeth Cohen

on 10 October 2016

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Transcript of Uses and Effects of Social Media During the 2012 Campaign

New Media & Personal Connections With Politicians
Elizabeth Cohen
Uses and Effects of Social Media During the 2012 Election Cycle
Department of Communication Studies
West Virginia University

Research Developing
in the Media & Interaction Lab

Dual-Screen Use and
Interpretation of Political Events

“Liked” or promoted materials related to politics
Encouraged people to vote or take action on political issues
Posted or reposted thoughts or comments on political issues
Joined a political social network group or followed political candidates or officials
Political Uses of Social Media During the
2012 Election Cycle
Young adults more likely to post their own thoughts or comments on political and social issues

Young adults more prone to post links to political stories and articles

Republicans more likely to have reposted political content posted by someone else

Democrats more likely to have promoted political materials

Democrats more likely to have encouraged people to vote
Demographic Differences in Social Media Use During
the 2012 Election Cycle
Obama Went into the Election with a
Higher Social Media Ranking
Overall, Democrats (and relatedly, young adults) appear to be a bit more politically active on social media

Social media magnifies the extremes:
Democrats and
Republicans are more likely than other groups to engage in many political activities on social network sites
Notable Trends
Source: Pew Internet Surveys (pewinternet.org)
Political Party Affiliation:
Source: Pew Internet Surveys (pewinternet.org)
60% of Americans use social networking sites or Twitter

66% of these users reported engaging in at least one the following political activities during the 2012 election:
Social Networking Democrats Think the Sites are More Important for Political Activities
78% of Americans relied on TV, newspapers, and radio for their news in 2012

Popularity of social media for campaign news is steadily growing, but cable news was king in 2012

Hence, social media's election influence is relatively weak
Most Americans Still Rely on Traditional
Sources of News for Election Information
1. Influenced or amplified news

2. Provided new metrics for gauging public
political sentiment

3. Reinforced political affiliations and social
network group norms
What Role Did Social Media Play
in the 2012 Election?
Becoming more difficult to untangle which source sets the news agenda; Which influences what we talk about during the election?

Most-likely: They feed each other when soundbites and memes are amplified by social media

Influenced or Amplified News Agenda
Political Internet Memes
Social media use in the 2012 election provided new ways for the the public, journalists, and campaigns to gauge public sentiment about candidates and what they are saying
Provided New Metrics for Gauging
Public Political Sentiment
Political activity on social media may not have changed any body’s mind, but it probably solidified existing alliances and help parties excite their base

Could have influenced behavior by permitting people to see what other people in their social network were doing or advocating
Use of Social Media Reinforced Social and Political Group norms
Following politicians on Facebook or Twitter, watching their Youtube videos (or reality TV shows!) might make people feel personally connected to politicians, as if they know them as friends

In the Media & Interaction Lab, we're beginning a project to look at the frequency and ramifications of these attachments for political behavior and decision-making
Social Media Can Foster Connections to Politicians

Dual Screen Use During Political Events: Can You Really Watch a Debate
and Post Social Network Comments at the Same Time?
Traditional news sources vs. social media news sources
Provide running commentary on the election
Potential to shape news agenda, gauge public sentiment, and reinforce political affiliations or group norms
Notably, successful memes are crafted and distributed by
, not campaigns or Super PACS
"Everybody's doing it"

EX: Debate viewing
“I’m a voter” buttons
1 in 10 viewers of the 1st presidential
debate were “dual-screeners”

5% posted reactions to the debate on social media
Questions to be explored in the Media & Interaction Lab:
What specifically are dual screeners doing during televised political events?

How does these multitasking behaviors affect interpretation of the event?

How does does social media use during televised political events affect political affilication and other civic behaviors?
Did Social Media Influence the 2012 Election Results?

Yes, probably, but not directly...
Source: Pew Internet Surveys (pewinternet.org)
Elizabeth Cohen
Department of Communication Studies

Slides will be available on Facebook: facebook.com/wvucommstudies
Full transcript