You are hereSocial Media Campaigns Target Young Voters
Social Media Campaigns Target Young Voters
If you don’t follow politics closely, you’ve probably heard something about Big Bird’s role in the presidential race. You’ve probably also heard about presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s “binders full of women.” If you own a cell phone or computer with internet capabilities, it is unlikely that you’ve been untouched by the 2012 Presidential Election.
This election season, candidates from both parties are making use of social media platforms in order to get word out. Their main target: young voters.
“It’s difficult getting the youth vote out, especially for 18 to 25-year olds.” said Walker Coggeshall of Organizing for America Colorado, “They’re busy with their lives, busy trying to get into college, trying to succeed in college and trying to work their way through college, so trying to convince them of the importance of their voice is difficult.”
Walker, 22, would be a senior here at the University of Colorado, but is taking the semester off to work on the Obama campaign. Although he does represent political inactivity that 18-29 year old voters are famous for, he recognizes that many of his peers get political information from social media.
“Most people will get their information from Facebook originally and then go online and check it out,” he said.
According to a survey done this summer by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 92% of people ages 18 to 29-years old use social networking sites. This means that social media campaigning has the potential to reach a great amount of people within this age bracket.
The hope on the part of both campaigns is that people see something that resonates with them on sites like Twitter and Instagram, and become interested enough to “like” or “retweet” the information. Assistant professor Anand Sohkey of CU’s Political Science Department says that social media campaigning might encourage more votes, but usefulness for changing minds and benefitting one party or the other is unlikely.
“There’s some evidence that you can stimulate turnout,” he said, “As to whether or not people are exposed to the other side or whether it’s just reinforcing their opinions, it’s kind of a new platform for an old debate.”
In fact, 60-percent of internet users 18 and up use social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, according to the Pew study. Of that group, 66-percent have employed social networking sites to express political views. Meanwhile, only 36-percent of social media users say that the sites are important to them for keeping up with politics.
“There is no doubt that the campaigns are using these to micro-target young voters,” said Sohkey.
President Obama and presidential candidate Mitt Romney have both launched social media campaigns that cover popular social media platforms. Both candidates have Twitter accounts, post Instagrams and maintain YouTube presences. Tumblr and Facebook are also sources of election information for voters.
Romney’s “I built this campaign” focuses on an out-of-context comment made by President Obama at a July speech in Roanoke, Virginia. The president said “Somebody invested in roads and bridges, if you got a business, you didn’t build that.”
The campaign centers around pictures and videos posted online by small business owners with the hashtag “#ibuiltthis.” The campaign has since become a social media phenomenon.
The president launched a social media campaign of his own, which works in a similar way to Romney’s. Obama’s For All Campaign is supported by celebrities such as Natalie Portman and Scarlet Johansson. People participate in the For All campaign by writing a campaign issue that they care about on their hand, placing their hand over their heart and taking a picture. The pictures appear on the site Instagram in conjunction with the hashtag “#forall.”
Studies have proven that social media sites sometimes impact people’s political views and involvement, but usefulness in influencing actual votes has not being determined.