Social Media: Where The Internet Takes Control Of The Election

Mar 12, 2016

 

Presidential elections have always sparked conversation around the dinner table and at news stands. Then, with the growth of media, that conversation spread to every screen and speaker imaginable.

Now, the platform for political talk is social media. And it could very well be changing the structure of the campaign as we know it.

On Feb. 9, 26-year-old Carolina Herlle shared this video on her Facebook page:

 

In the video, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright tells young women to vote for Hillary Clinton.

To express this, Secretary Albright quoted her famous line, "There's a special place in hell for women who don't help each other."

 

With the video, Herlle wrote: "Sorry not sorry but voting for Hillary just because she’s a woman is just as sexist as not voting for her because she’s a woman."

 

Secretary Albright apologized for what she called an “undiplomatic moment.” But not before the comments started rolling in on Herlle’s page.  

 

The first comment was "Poor Madeleine Albright is so old and probably only with it for about 50 percent of the time."

 

Then someone added, "A special kind of hell is way overboard."

 

Another one read, "I am a Clinton supporter myself but I agree that people should not vote for her just because she’s a woman."

 

Eventually, that post had close to 40 comments. Herlle didn’t expect to spark such a debate over one post.

 

"My post was almost like an open forum for people. So you got to hear different sides of the story, which is fine," said Herlle.

 

Exchanges like this are filling up social media feeds.

 

The Pew Research Center asked people where they’re getting information about this presidential election.

 

About a third of 18- to 29-year-olds named a social networking site as their most “helpful” source.

 

Dr. Nancy Richmond is a professor at Florida International University. She’s the advisor for the university’s social media association. She believes social media gives young people a voice in the election that they didn’t have before.

 

"It's not just media outlets. People can actually say what they're really thinking online and that's really driving the conversation about politics," said Richmond.

 

The 2008 election was really the first time presidential candidates used social media to introduce themselves to young voters.

 

Sophomore Katherine Bolt is vice president of the College Republicans at FIU.

 

"I think a big reason that Obama won is because he made everyone else kind of look stupid in social media," said Bolt.

 

Bolt grew up in the world of politics. Her mother has worked for both Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush. She’s been using social media since middle school. So the once-groundbreaking idea of a candidate on social media doesn’t quite have the same effect on her age group.

 

They approach it with certain savviness … and maybe some skepticism.

 

"Everything is done by people who're running social media and like you can tell that it's not really like the politicians that are saying it. It's like some teenage like intern writing everything," said Bolt.

 

Daniel Horton is a 30-year-old recent law school grad. He agrees that young people no longer take what’s said on social media at face value. Horton thinks Twitter has actually negatively affected Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

 

"You run into situations like the hashtag #NotMyAbuela where Hillary is talking about how she’s just like your grandmother," said Horton. "There’s a backlash and hashtags start trending and they have to put these fires out. I think there’s just a disconnect between the genuineness of some of the messages that are coming across."

 

 

 

The perception of genuineness is one of the factors Professor Richmond attributes to Donald Trump’s success in the campaign.  

 

"Whether it's his campaign that's coming up with it or he's coming up with himself; I don't think you get that feeling when he's tweeting, that it's somebody else," said Richmond. "Maybe people like that."

 

If current Facebook "Likes" are an indicator of anything, the results of the Florida primary would have Donald Trump beating Marco Rubio by 10 percentage points and Bernie Sanders would beat Clinton by nine percentage points.

 

On Tuesday, we’ll see whether the people behind those clicks have an influence at the polls.