ORI News

Social media's influence on elections

Social Media: Influence on the U.S. Electorate

(The following case study synopsis on Social Media influcence is based on an ORI White Paper)

The national election in 2012 proved to be an inflection point in the role of social media in public debate. ORI partnered with the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management to investigate the changing use and influence of social media in politics, advocacy and civil engagement campaigns. Our findings document the historic transformation that took place in the last election cycle.

By now, it is not news that there was a generational divide in the adoption of our reliance on social media by younger voters in 2012. However, what is noteworthy is that a majority of all voters (63%) perceived the quality of information they encountered on these platforms to be equal to or better than what they received via traditional media. In addition, a plurality of survey respondents indicated that social media was an integral part of their participation in the election. A plurality of all voters used social media to track political news, debate or discuss issues and find others with shared views; even more reported that they had engaged in at least one social media activity related to the candidates or issues. The adoption of social media as a news and information source by those over 35 has had significant effects on subsequent elections.

2012 also marked the convergence of political affiliation and social identity. Although older survey participants reported that their social networks consisted of people with a mix of political views, younger voters presaged the trend toward clustering with others who held similar views. Political orientation has become a social matter, and the American voter is now much more willing to share publicly opinions that previously had been deemed private. This study demonstrates how social analytics have become as important as polling in political science and advocacy.

To obtain a copy of the full ORI White Paper, click here (registration required).