Presidential campaigns see the best (and worst) of social media

By Maggie Nelson, The Dartmouth Staff | 11/1/12 3:00pm

However, a certain disparity seems to exist between the two major presidential candidates, reflecting the different voter demographics of the two parties. Obama’s Facebook page has accumulated over 31 million likes, paling Romney’s 11.5 million. On Twitter, this gap widens. Obama's campaign page has over 21 million followers, in comparison to Romney’s 1.634 million. These statistics seem to be a continuation of the legacy that Obama created as a social media giant in the 2008 election.

“The Obama campaign has definitely benefited from social media," Marco Herndon '16 said. "From using pictorial graphs that may show misleading statistics, because those really resonate well youth since young people aren't particularly inclined to reading a lot of text. Romney’s campaign has not figured that out entirely.”

When it comes to the vice presidential running mates, though, Ryan seems be winning the social media battle against Biden. On Facebook, Ryan's and Biden's pages have 5.1 million and 500,000 likes, respectively.

Social media’s impact on the election, however, is not limited to messages put out by the candidate’s campaigns. Ordinary users are given more of a voice through status updates and tweets. However, because of the filter-lacking nature of social media, they are not always substantive.

“During the debates, people will just update about trivial things," Matt Stanton '15 said. "Like I’ll see ‘Nice Obama’ or ‘Romney’s an idiot.' People’s opinions about the candidates are formulated about things that don’t really matter like how they present an issue or how articulate they sound.”

Stanton said that the number of memes that circulate regarding candidates can affect the popular perception of a candidate.

“When Mitt Romney made the women and binders comment ... loads of memes sprouted up about that," he said.

The use of this type of social media begs the question of what factors young voters really base their decisions on. A recent Thought Catalog post so petty, it verges on satirical, displays this potential shallowness that characterizes — at least in cyberspace — some young voters.

There has also been some thought-provoking advertising independent of the major parties, Stanton said.

“I’ve seen a lot of survey sites where you take a survey and they give you a candidate, most of the time from a third party, that you should vote for [based on how you felt about certain issues]," Stanton said. "It makes you think a lot about the real issues and how [some] people will just vote for whoever’s name they see the most.”

Maggie Nelson, The Dartmouth Staff