The 2016 Presidential Election will go down as one of the most famous of its time. We all know that the infamous Donald Trump was elected President last Tuesday, causing chaos not just throughout the country, but throughout the world as well. “Twitter and other forms of social media are reshaping how politicians communicate with voters, cutting out the journalistic middleman, and popularizing political criticism.” Voters are relying on social media outlets to provide them with information and help them formulate opinions. But, all personal opinions aside- presidential campaigns have become modernized through the use of social media. So, how did Trump utilize it to win the election?
The Trump Effect
The use of social media today allows for the mobilization of each candidate’s political agenda and slogans. As displayed above, Donald Trump used Twitter to post his personal opinions and hints at his political agenda regarding the country. This negative rhetoric towards Hispanics went viral due to the number of followers Trump has as well as Twitter’s strong reach towards users.One in five people report changing their views on a political or social issue because of something they read on social media, and nearly the same amount say they changed their views about a specific candidate based on what they read there. With one click users can retweet these messages and within a short period of time everyone is talking about it. “Political multimedia spreads organically online, driven by public opinion and popularized through user interaction such as “liking” and “resharing.” This is the key to social medias role in modern day elections-mobility. However, this mobility can have both negative and positive effects.
After Trump was elected, his negative rhetoric used throughout his campaign and published on his social media accounts spread through schools across the country. For example, at a school in Wisconsin, white students formed a human wall to keep Hispanic students out. This behavior is a direct response to exposure to Trump’s opinions via social media. Tweeting about building a wall caused students to physically build one themselves- already creating barriers between races only a few days after the election. Here, we see an obvious negative effect of the mobility of social media.
Social Media is clearly used for voicing political slogans, but it can also be used for negative campaigning. Candidates can post things on their social media accounts to persuade voters that the candidate they are running against is not fit to run the country. Voters could be exposed to this negative campaigning through print media or television, but, “the extent to which political content on social media permeates the lives of its users is greater than even that of television. By necessity, any piece of viral social media content has been vetted by thousands of users who found it to be emotionally stirring, informative, or otherwise jarring.”
So, if candidates can use social media as a weapon against their opponents, they can most definitely use it as a way to help themselves. Despite some of the shocking things he said on his Twitter account, academics say that his uncensored tweets were key to persuading voters. Trump would receive nearly double the number of Twitter mentions as Hilary Clinton each day, regardless of how negative they were. He also has about 40% more followers on Twitter than his opponent did at the time of the campaign. His tweets seemed to come directly from him, not a media team, which made them more persuasive to voters. This created a relationship with voters and ultimately started a movement of followers that continued to grow as his presence on Twitter intensified.
So- was it social media that won Trump the election? Some people may think so.