Social Media and The Election of 2016

Written By: Cassandra Deakin

No matter which side of the fence you’re on, this year’s election is…unique. Both major parties have candidates with not only large personalities but also controversy surrounding them. Another unique aspect of this election is the role of social media. According to an article by Sci-Tech, social media is a “doorway to the rest of the campaign.” On Facebook alone, from the months of January to October, 109 million Americans generated 5.3 billion likes, post, comments, and shares about the election, according to the company. The election is also being discussed and promoted through other platforms such as Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.

Photo Credit: Natalie Andrews

What I personally find most interesting about the effects of social media on the election is how accessible it is making it to people. Before the voter registration deadline, many platforms were encouraging people to check whether or not they were registered and explained to how to register for those that weren’t. In my opinion, it was extremely helpful. I was never taught how to register to vote, let alone where polling stations were and how the process worked. By simply clicking a link on Facebook, I was lead to a site that not only explained where and how to register, but also where and how to vote. While some may consider this laziness, I personally consider it to be a fantastic way to simplify and streamline a confusing process.

The primary reason why so many platforms have been pushing for voter registration is millennials. Millennials make up 31 percent of eligible voters this year, according to a recent article by Reuters. Multiple states have reported spikes in voter registration in the millennial demographic after social media platforms began issuing reminders and registration prompts. The question remains, of course, will millennials actually vote? I like to think so (I voted!), but Donald Green, a professor of political science, is “skeptical that an increase in young voter registration will correspond with millennials unseating the Baby Boomers as the most active voting bloc.”

In addition, all three major presidential debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were streamed on social media. Many millennials don’t even have cable, so the online streaming coupled with the hashtags and chats surrounding them greatly increased the number of people engaged in the debates. Unfortunately, this also means that poorly made political memes are on the rise, but alas, one cannot expect progress to be able to completely avoid internet idiocy. Thanks to social media, Ken Bone, an undecided voter at a debate, became an internet sensation. I even saw people dress up as him for Halloween…but that’s a discussion for another post.

According to Sci-Tech, the candidates have also used social media to broadcast rallies live, conduct Q&As, and even raise funding. Hashtags such as #LockHerUp and #ImWithHer have been following the two major candidates for the majority of the campaign.

At any rate, this election is the first in our history to be so involved with social media (Tweets have been discussed at debates. How crazy is that?!). It will be interesting to see which way it swings, and whether or not the influx of millennial registrations due to social media played a factor.

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UNT Eagle Strategies

Class members of the social media class in the Mayborn School of Journalism