CANDIDATES USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO RE-ENERGIZE US POLITICS
Could this be the dawn of a new political era of citizen involvement in politics? I blogged earlier about the role of social media in this election, specifically the way that Obama has so masterfully used social media to both connect and rally voters. Now as campaign 2008 draws to a close, we can see that social media has played a significant and expanded role in deciding the presidency.
Nearly half of all Americans (46%) have used the internet, email, or cell-phone text messaging to get news about the presidential campaign, share their views, or mobilize others, according to a new survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
The role of social media seems to have increased two-fold since the last election. The proportion of Americans going online on a typical day at the tail end of the primary season to get political news or information more than doubled compared with a comparable point in the 2004 race - from 8% of all adults in Spring 2004 to 17% in Spring 2008.
Moreover, 28% of wired Americans say the internet makes them feel more personally connected to the campaign and 22% say that they would not be as involved in the campaign if not for the internet. This is a positive development which can perhaps account in some part for the greater turnouts expected today.
“22% say that they would not be as involved in the campaign if not for the internet”
Democracy is all about grassroots activation and the internet has been a catalyst in that respect. Online activism using social media has shown significant growth over the course of this election.
- 11% of Americans have contributed to the political conversation by forwarding or posting someone else's commentary about the race.
- 5% have posted their own original commentary or analysis.
- 6% have gone online to donate money to a candidate or campaign.
- Young voters are helping to define the online political debate; 12% of online 18-29 year old's have posted their own political commentary or writing to an online newsgroup, website or blog.
Younger voters and Democrats make more use of online media to consume and share political information, the study also found. It's important to note, however, that those “young voters” will be 4 years older next election followed by a new generation of voters who will be even more socially wired.
Among the findings from Pew’s telephone survey of internet users and non-users:
- 40% of all Americans have gotten news and information about this year’s campaign from the internet.
- 19% of Americans go online once a week or more to do something related to the campaign, and 6% go online daily to engage politically.
- 23% say once a week or more they receive emails that urge them to support a candidate or discuss the campaign.
- 10% use email once a week or more to contribute to the political debate.
- 4% have exchanged political views via text messaging.
So how did the candidates stack up in their use of Social Media? Thanks to Jeremiah Owyang, Sr. Analyst at Forrester Research, for providing these stats:
Internet Usage in the United States
United States Population: 303,824,646
Internet Usage: 220,141,969
Penetration rate: 72.5%
Growth from 2000-2008: 130.9%
Stats from Internet WorldStats (Census, Nielson)
Obama: 1792 videos uploaded since Nov 2006, Subscribers: 114,559 (uploads about 4 a day), Channel Views: 18,413,110
McCain: 329 videos uploaded since Feb 2007 (uploads about 2 a day), Subscribers: 28,419, Channel Views: 2,032,993
Obama has 403% more subscribers than McCain. Obama has 905% more viewers than McCain
While is seems clear that Obama outperformed McCain online, McCain must be given credit for participating in social media, albeit not as effectively as his opponent. In any case, the numbers would indicate that even in its early days, social media will have played a role in the outcome of this campaign.
For me the most exciting part is that social media seems to have enabled millions to play a more active role in the campaign. In a country where voter apathy has been a chronic problem for decades, social media seems to have engaged people in politics in a way I have never witnessed before. I think in many cases it reaffirmed people's belief that every voice counts, and that's good news for any democracy.