How Social Media Has Affected Political Campaigns

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Whether it’s reaching out to swing voters or interacting with their faithful base, candidates and campaigns across the political spectrum turn to outlets like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat to connect with people. How effectively they use social media can doom candidates’ and incumbents’ fate at the ballot box or propel them to victory.

Here are six ways social media has influenced the political landscape — and campaigning activity as a result:

  1. Increased participation in the political process

    From announcing upcoming town halls to issuing statements on what’s happening in the news, social media’s vast footprint and simplicity has helped to stimulate more interest in civics — both from lawmakers and their constituents. According to polling conducted by the Pew Research Center, compared to 2016, the typical U.S. congressperson tweets almost two times more frequently today than they did four years ago and gets retweeted six times more frequently.

  1. Served as a leading forum for political involvement

    While rallies, peaceful protests and fundraisers may still be the norm, social media has overtaken them when it comes to generating interest and actions for various causes — especially among young people. Separate polling from Pew found social media users 30 and under have encouraged friends on social media to take action on issues they consider to be meaningful. Those who express their views on social media are also known as “expressive attentives.”

  1. Led to growth in expressive attentives’ in-person political activity

    Those who make their opinions known on social media tend to do so in person as well. Based on survey research from YouGov and George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management, expressive attentives are nearly four times more likely to say they’ve attended a protest recently compared to the average person of the corresponding party affiliation.

  1. Increased voter turnout and registration

    Nearly 95% of expressive attentives in the polling said they would “definitely vote” in the November election, compared to approximately 83% for the average individual with the same party affiliation.

  1. Stimulated resurgence in “issue voters”

    From energy independence to social justice, issues and causes run the gamut on social media, some of which may affect how people vote. Nearly a third of 18- to 29-year-old men have changed their mind about an issue because of what they learned on social networks, according to a Pew survey.

  1. Shifted to a smaller share of users producing the highest amount of political content

    Several polls show that when it comes to political topics, the smallest, most frequent users of social media tend to post and produce the most content in terms of volume. Over 80% of tweets are created by the most active 10% of users, the Pew Research Center found.

In the three-credit hour course Maximizing Social Media, online Master’s in Political Management students will learn more about social media’s influence and how they can better leverage it on the campaign trail. These and many more learning outcomes are available at the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University. Apply now.

Pew Research Center – Small Share of Adults Produce Majority of Tweets
Pew Research Center – 14% of Americans Have Changed Their Mind About an Issue Because of Social Media
Pew Research Center – Congress Soars to New Heights on Social Media

Infographic How Social Media has Affected Political Campaigns

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