Social Media: The New Frontier in Elections


Thursday, March 14, 2019

It’s happened to all of us. You’re just minding your own business and scrolling through Twitter when a rant from the President pops up.

Most days it’s hard to avoid without seeing something from Donald Trump, Elizabeth Warren, or even Bernie Sanders. This is a relatively new occurrence in the world of politics. As citizens, we have access to any senator, representative, and even the president. We can reach them in an instant and easier than ever before. This also means they can reach us as citizens, more importantly as voters, just as easily.

We have already seen people using social media in this past election cycle. Most notably, Beto O’Rourke in the Texas senate race against the incumbent Ted Cruz. O’Rourke’s use of twitter was a lot different than the way Donald Trump used it. O’Rourke was able to enlist the help of millions across the country in his campaign to get elected.

Every day during that election, you could find ads, campaign videos and the like for O’Rourke’s Senate bid. Had his election not been against Ted Cruz in Texas, I think he would have won any other race. If he decides to run for president in 2020, like many think he will, I think he’d have little trouble winning the Democratic nomination, and would proceed to put up a very good fight against Donald Trump.

If you look back at the 2016 Presidential election cycle, you can clearly see what is likely the first real case of social media being used effectively in a campaign.

The story truly begins with Donald Trump on June 16th, 2015, the day he announced he was running for President. President Trump was the first candidate in the race to use social media to its total potential.

He was able to build an image that brought all of the attention towards him. The way he used his Twitter account may not have always been the smartest, but it was important because many initially took him as a joke. President Trump needed to bring attention to himself and he used Twitter to do just that. He said some absurd things, but it grabbed not only the voters’ attention but the media’s as well. The latter being the most important.

The more he had the media’s attention, the more they would air his rallies because it brought in viewers. The media was using Trump to get ratings, but they didn’t see that they were playing straight into his hands. He was able to talk to millions of people because of his random, absurd tweets.

You could argue that Trump’s use of social media hurt his campaign because he would truly tweet or retweet some absurd things.

During the Republican primaries, Trump retweeted, “Jeb Bush has to like the Mexican Illegals because of his wife.” Tweets like this made me really question at times if I should support him. I know this had the same impact on other voters as well. It made them question their support for Trump or even drove them away.

Even though his use of Twitter was often questionable, it was far more effective than his opponent, Hillary Clinton. Clinton was arguably outdated when it came to using social media and the internet as a whole. She even stated that she “didn’t have a computer.” This was Trump’s biggest advantage over her on the campaign trail, and he used it to the end.

A similar principle occurred during the 1960 presidential election with the first televised debate between JFK and Richard Nixon. That one instant changed elections forever. Public image began to play a much larger role than before. When the debate was finished, radio listeners said the debate was a dead-tie and evenly matched, while the people who watched on T.V. had JFK winning in a landslide.

Why was it that the people on T.V. said JFK won? Many believe that it was because JFK was naturally better looking than Nixon, but it was also due to the way each answered the questions given to them. JFK looked more directly into the camera and seemed to be talking to the people watching on T.V., while Nixon seemed to be dodging the camera and looking at the people in the studio.

The same idea can be applied to social media today. Donald Trump was willing to use the power of social media by being direct with the people “watching on T.V.,” while Hillary Clinton, whom many already believed to be untrustworthy, seemed to be “dodging the camera.”

Jake is a freshman at Auburn University pursuing an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering. In his free time, he enjoys playing basketball, playing video games, and talking politics.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.

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About Jake Gonzalez

Auburn University

Jake is a freshman at Auburn University pursuing an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering. In his free time, he enjoys playing basketball, playing video games, and talking politics.

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