Social Media Is Changing The Landscape Of Election Days & Voter Interaction

Since the advent of Facebook, Twitter and various other social media platforms, businesses have been trying to figure out how to best interact with customers to increase sales. Politicians and political parties are doing the same – figuring out how to best interact with potential voters to sway votes and increase visibility. With another Election Day in the books, it is becoming even clearer just how far political campaigns have come with social media integration.

Social Media on Election DaysPhoto credit: Vox Efx / Foter / CC BY

Take Facebook for example. If you logged into Facebook on Election Day this year, you probably noticed the “I’m A Voter” app on the top of your feed. According to a study by James Fowler at the University of California-San Diego, the “I’m A Voter” app increased voter turnout by 340,000 people in the 2010 election. Think about recent Presidential elections and how much of a difference that number of voters could make (hanging chads in Florida). The study estimates the Facebook app directly caused 60,000 people to vote and indirectly influenced an additional 280,000 voters to show up at the polls. These are numbers that campaign managers cannot ignore.

Pew Research determined that between 2010 and 2014 Election Days, that the number of voters who utilized smart phones and social media to learn more about candidates and issues increased from 13 percent to 28 percent. Looking at the rather large increase, you’d expect it to be because of teens joining the ranks of registered voters, but Pew Research shows the jump is because of 30-49 year-old voters becoming more accustomed to using mobile devices to locate and disseminate information. It’s also interesting to note that twice as many registered voters follow candidates on social media platforms today compared to 2010.

Some political figures admit to having trouble grasping with the growing trend of social media in politics. Hillary Clinton, for instance, has openly spoken about the obstacles she has to overcome when thinking about a potential run for President in 2016. Clinton told the San Francisco Chronicle social media creates issues because “people are looking for the best angle, the biggest hit, the biggest embarrassment, instead of – in democracy – what we should be doing, which is giving people information.”

With Election Day 2014 in the books and the 2016 Presidential Election starting to heat up, there are still many studies to be conducted and analyzed to see exactly how much social media is affecting voter turnout and the decisions of those voters. One thing is clear though: if politicians want to maximize their chances in elections, a presence on social media channels is vital to success.