Local experts: Social media is playing a crucial role in the election


GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – With Campaign 2016 now in full swing, social media is buzzing with politics, which local experts say is having a big impact.

Many people see their friends on Facebook and Twitter posting about one of the nominees or their views on a particular topic. As it turns out, this is having a huge impact on voters and on the election so far.

It’s already been used in groundbreaking ways this election season. Just before last week’s Republican National Convention, Trump announced his running mate, Governor Mike Pence, via Twitter. During Melania Trump’s RNC speech last week, word about the similarities to Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech broke on Twitter.

ECU Political Science Professor Tom Eamon says candidates are targeting specific people.

“Reach your audience, try to mobilize them. You know who you’re talking to and you can be more extreme in what you say because you are talking to the already converted,” Eamon said.

According to the Pew Research Center, 44% of American adults say they’re learning about the presidential election from social media. 24% say they use social media posts as a source for election news.

Candidates have used social media in previous elections, but experts say this is the most social media driven election yet.

The Pew Research Center also found nearly 2/3 of people ages 18 to 29 say social media is the most helpful source for learning about politics. Only 40% of baby boomers agree.

Eamon says social media is a huge contributing factor to the level of meanness this election season, both from candidates and amongst voters.

“People often go to something that they think is going to back up or reinforce their own views. And when you have that being the situation and people can join in, they’re going to be more direct and more candid if you will and candor is maybe not always good,” Eamon said.

Social media research company SocialFlow says since the beginning of the election, the nation has spent nearly 874 years reading about Sanders and Clinton on social media, which is a third less than the time they’ve devoted to Trump.

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