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Uses and Effects of Social Network Sites During the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

Presentation given at West Virginia University Academic Media Day, October 11, 2016

Elizabeth Cohen

on 27 October 2016

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Transcript of Uses and Effects of Social Network Sites During the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

Uses and Effects of Social Network Sites During the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election
Elizabeth L. Cohen

“Liked” or promoted materials related to politics
Encouraged people to vote or take political action
Posted or reposted thoughts or comments on political issues
Joined a political social network group or followed political candidates or officials

Two-Thirds of U.S. adults (65%) use social network sites
Increasingly, users are beginning to see social network sites as political places ...
During the 2012 election, 66% of users participated in political social network site use:
Social Network Sites are
Places for Politics

But not everybody has the same
political experiences on
social network sites
Politically rich appear to get richer.
Citizen Uses of Social Network Sites During the Election
Campaign Uses of Social
Network Sites During the Election
Content Distribution
and Agenda Setting

Listening and Response

Fundraising and
Voter Mobilization

Micro-Targeted Advertising
Could Social Network Sites
Tip the Election?
Will they?
Probably not. Although candidates
could make this technique work
to their advantage.
Content Distribution and Media Agenda Setting
Campaigns distribute content promoting their political platform and successes
Campaigns monitor social network sites to stay in touch with current dialogue. Occasionally, candidates respond directly to the public, particularly Trump.
Clinton tends to link to official campaign communication. Trump tends to link to the news media.
Big data algorithms permit campaigns to target voters with customized advertisements based on their personal connections and geolocation data on social network sites

(Trump appears to to have won the
war on authenticity thanks to his personal,
uncensored social media routines)
My own research focuses on social media practices that increase perceptions
of authenticity
Ghost-Tweeting (using a campaign surrogate to Tweet on your behalf) lowers authenticity and increases how distant people feel from public figures
A Facebook experiment demonstrated that selectively showing people that their friends had voted, made them more likely to vote.
Are Social Network Sites Changing What We Expect in Our Candidates?
Likely, yes.
There's more pressure on officials to
maintain a fan following on social network sites, sharing spontaneous, "authentic" moments that seem genuine, human, and
less manufactured.
Students in my WVU political communication class and I are currently researching the psychology of how people respond to upsetting political posts on Facebook during the election
Facebook users engaged with an upsetting political
post more often when they believed it had more
influence on other people than on themselves
The stakes are higher on social network sites where everything is public: Political conflict appears to be motivated by a fear that other people will be influenced by an opinion
Our public displays of connection on social
network sites make us privy to information and conversations about friends' and family's
political beliefs that can lead to conflict.
Are Social Network Sites Damaging Our Relationships During the Election?

Often Yes.
January 2016: 44% of U.S. adults reported having learned about the 2016 presidential election in the past week from social media
(Statistics from Pew Research Center)
Social network sites are also important sources of comic relief ...
Viral memes shape the narrative
of the election and help us
collectively laugh at ourself
When they're lucky, candidate's social network site posts can set the media agenda too
Trump used Facebook Live to broadcast his 2nd debate prep with Bill Clinton's accusers, the rest of the media quickly picked it up
Are People Persuaded to Change Their Vote on Social Network Sites?

Occasionally. But Very Rarely.
Social network sites are more commonly used to reinforce people's existing beliefs and strengthen their
political affiliations
For better or worse, social media has become an integral part of our politics and shutting it out entirely can leave us out of the conversation. Political incivility is a problem. Social network sites aren't to blame,
but they could help with a solution:
Should we Avoid Social Network
Sites Until After the Election?

I'd rather we didn't.

Political civility requires exposure to different perspectives. So keep weak ties close and practice tolerance on social network sites.

Full transcript