Internet, Social Media Prominent in US Presidential Race

    WASHINGTON — With every presidential election, the role and impact of the Internet grows. In 2012, so-called ‘social media,’ such as Facebook, Twitter and the like, have become a prominent means of political communication.

    Political campaigns used to rely on speeches, rallies, and newspapers to reach and motivate voters. Then radio and TV made it possible to reach everyone quickly and simultaneously. Today, campaigns can spread their messages instantly - and, interactively - through the Internet’s so-called ‘social media.’
     
    The Internet’s role in political campaigning has grown hugely over the past 20 years. It’s used to spread the candidates’ messages, to raise money, and to motivate voters to get actively involved.

    Transformative communication

    When Democratic Party presidential candidate Barack Obama ran in 2008, his team used the Internet to a degree never seen before - and with significant effect, said political communications strategist Peter Fenn.

    “First of all, if you look at the numbers on this, it’s absolutely incredible. He had 4 million donors to his campaign, which is about one in 17 people who voted for him gave him money," said Fenn. "That had never happened in American politics. Second thing is [that] you had about 16 million email addresses that he had of folks."

    In the 2012 presidential election, both major candidates - the incumbent president, Obama, and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, are using the Internet - including social media like Facebook and Twitter - massively, and strategically.

    And, each form has a role to play in message delivery, said the Romney campaign’s Digital Media Director, Zac Moffat.

    "The way that I would think about it is Twitter is kind of the ultimate real-time engagement tool. Twitter is the conversations occurring in real time," said Moffat. "I would think of Facebook as happening ‘that night’ - it’s almost like the event has occurred, and people are reflecting upon it. And then, Google kicks in the next day, and they are able to kind of put structure to all of that madness, and is able to say ‘OK, this is how people talked about it.’"

    Interactive, responsive body politic

    Social media also enable voters to respond to candidate mis-statements and awkward situations, which then spread like wildfire across the Internet.

    "There is a piece of information… and it begins to bounce around, essentially. It’s shared, it’s repeated. It reverberates," said Politico newspaper correspondent Tony Romm. "We see the same thing with Facebook, when a user shares a news story about something a candidate has done. And then, that begins to explode, eventually winding up in major newspapers, making major headlines across the country. So, it has a huge effect."

    Internet political strategists say the goal with social media is to collect data from voters in order to personalize the campaign - to make the candidate not only familiar, but also to be seen as a friend who knows and understands the problems voters face and want solved. That, analysts say, is the ‘retail politics’ of today - and tomorrow.

    Jeffrey Young

    Jeffrey Young is a Senior Analyst in VOA’s Global English TV.  He has spent years covering global strategic issues, corruption, the Middle East, and Africa. During most of 2013, he was on special assignment in Baghdad and elsewhere with the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR).  Previous VOA activities include video journalism and the “Focus” news analysis unit. He also does journalist training overseas for VOA.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora