New Media in Presidential Elections: Beneficial or Damaging?

In “Republicans Embrace Twitter Hard for’12” Jennifer Steinhauer investigates how new media technology has shaped message sending in presidential elections. Specifically, she studies how Republicans have affected politics with insta-Tweets about Obama.  Obama’s 2008 campaign “masterfully capitalized” on social media (1), but Obama and his campaign staff used social media websites such as “tools of outreach and organization” (2). Although there were innovations in social media tools and new media technologies between Obama’s 2008 campaign and Howard Dean’s 2004 campaign, both democratic candidates depended on new media for productive purposes of promoting their campaign and facilitating interactions between supporters. This relates back to Hindman’s study about the 2004 Howard Dean Campaign when Howard Dean and his campaign staff similarly took advantage of changes in new media to increase candidate support.  In his article “The Real Lessons of Howard Dean: Reflections on the First Digital Campaign,” Hindman explains how Howard Dean coordinated group activity, increased support, encouraged socialization, and fundraised with a novelty Internet campaign.

Jennifer Steinhauer relays how Republicans have joined “opposition twitter efforts” in the 2012 presidential election by criticizing Obama with insta-Tweets about his speeches, slogans, programs, etc.  (2). Steinhauer highlights how Republicans currently use Twitter as a “main messaging tool” and “weapon of repetition” to oppose Obama (2). After the Republican candidate lost in the the 2008 election,  Republicans began exploiting new media technology with insta-Tweets as “rapid response operations” for criticizing Obama (2).  I was fascinated by Steinhauer’s evidence of how House Republicans members have “twice as many followers” and are “far more active on Twitter” than Democratic opponents  (2).  As the new media landscape is being revolutionized and continues to evolve, why aren’t Democratic counterparts taking advantage of these twitter efforts and criticizing Republican candidates? Do differences in Twitter consumption between Republicans and Democrats craft a negative portrayal of Republicans and how they support presidential candidates?

Jami Levin

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3 Responses to New Media in Presidential Elections: Beneficial or Damaging?

  1. stemulka says:

    Twitter is just one of the communication channels that politicians can use to get their message out to the public. Democrats just use different channels to craft their messages. I think that which party that is currently holding power, plays a big role in how a new communication channel is used. We saw social media like Facebook playing a big role for Democrats when Bush was in power and now we are seeing republicans utilizing Twitter while Obama is in power. Negative media holds more weight especially when the media can only be 140 characters. I think it be incredibly hard democrats so be so negative while their party is currently holding the title of president because the American citizens hold the president responsible for everything that goes wrong.

  2. nverduin says:

    When reading Steinhauer, I was surprised that Republicans in the House have “twice as many followers” and are “far more active on Twitter” than their democratic counterparts because this is evidence directly against Hernson’s findings. Hernson found that Senate candidates and nonincumbents were more likely to use the Internet to communicate with voters than House candidates and incumbents. However, in 2012, we see just the opposite. Republicans in the House, who have a smaller base of voters to reach and already control this part of Congress, are using Social Media tools more vigorously than Democrats. We may assume the situations for online campaigning have changed and maybe Twitter is no longer an “emerging tool”. It real question is if this Twitter use is affective for House candidates. Maybe Democrats feel more traditional media gets the word out better. My other theory is that House Republicans are supporting the republican presidential candidate as best they can against the incumbent. Maybe it is more of a group effort to elect a republican for president.

  3. danicawhitfield says:

    I think that you raise a good point in mentioning how the “House Republican members have ‘twice as many followers’ and are ‘far more active on Twitter’ than Democratic opponents'”. I find this particularly interesting because (and perhaps I am biased) every time I happen to see something political trending on Twitter (although usually geared toward the Presidential race rather than House race) it is usually pro-Democrat and/or anti-Republican. To answer your first question (and again to draw from my personal experience) I agree because I rarely see multiple instances of Democrats criticizing Republican candidates. However, the criticizing of the Republicans (through trending-topics) are mostly carried out through average Democrat supporters. This makes me wonder if Democrats do not have to actively go out and criticize their opponents as much as the Republicans do because their target demographic is more in-touch with technology, more likely to be on Twitter, and more likely to rebuttal for them.

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