Was it Twitter Wot Won it?

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If the American Presidential election was decided by social media it would be a landslide:

On Twitter, Obama has 21.5m followers; Romney has 1.6m. On Facebook, Obama has 31.6m likes; Romney has just 11.6m. The list goes on – Obama’s YouTube channel has 254,000 subscribers, Romney, just 27,000; Obama’s Instagram feed has 1.5m followers, whereas Romney’s has only 68,000.

More on that can be found here.

In reality it will be a handful of swing states (marginals to us Brits) which will tip Romney or Obama via the electoral college into the White House. Though I have occasionally received breaking news via a Facebook status update:

… it’s worth remembering that not everyone is on social media. Recent research from the Pew Research Center points out that, while the number of Americans who regularly go to social media networks to find out their news has doubled since January, it is still only a regular news source for a relatively small number of people: just 17 per cent of the population.

As Talan puts it: “It’s like breakfast. You want to have it – it’s a really important meal – but it’s not the only meal.”

Also twitter is like preaching to the choir rather than converting infidels. Studies that looked at the influence of social media on voting need look at not just voting intention, but whether social media use meant more likely to vote, helped them change their mind, persuade others to vote, campaign for a particular candidate and how. If there was a scale included (not just yes or no) the data may enable us to see whether social media is more a communication tool or an influential opinion maker.

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Like “It’s The Sun Wot Won It!” on the front page of the same newspaper in Britain when the Conservative Party narrowly retained power in 1992 claiming their support helped John Major overturn the opinion polls. Traditional media are still the main way we receive news – and whether it is a column in The Wall Street Journal or a video clip of Fox News we make use of Twitter or Facebook to share with others in the digital age.

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Celebrity endorsement probably are less about giving a candidate new supporters, rather it is about creating enthusiastic supporters to definitely vote, get campaigning plus all the publicity and campaign finance that helps come polling day. The photo above of Katy Perry was tweeted (sent) to the 28 million people that follow her – that photo was retweeted (sent to others to see) by over 14,000 of them to those following them. So an audience beyond fans of Katy Perry could see that photo.

By the way if you would like to follow me on Twitter feel free @JPSargeant78

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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