Being someone who has increasingly found politics more interesting (and enraging) I decided to see what sort of literature was out there regarding social media or web 2.0 (whatever that means, right?) with regards to politics. I knew that the internet presence of Barack Obama was one caveat of his campaign that experts credited him to for the success of his campaign. I fortunately found myself an article that is very close to what I was interested in.
Wattal, S., Schuff, D., Mandviwalla, M., Williams, C. B. (Forthcoming). Web 2.0 and Politics: The 2008 U.S. Presidential Election and an E-Politics Research Agenda. Management Information Systems Quarterly (MISQ). Volume 34, Number 4, December 2010, pp. 669-688.
This link may not give you full access, as I had to find it through the Purdue Libraries under MIS Quarterly (Find them all in EBSCO Host Business I believe)
This empirical research covers the 2008 campaign with a wide range of media tools used from Myspace, Facebook, blogs, and even YouTube. It used 15 primary candidates for president over a 12 month period, starting in Feb 2007 through Jan 2008. The authors were interested in how web 2.0 can change the nature of competition in presidential campaigns as well as how the candidates utilizing them can affect voters.
I find the data presented to be very interesting here. It is hard to discount the idea that the internet won Obama an election, or played a major role in his success after reading some of this material. He dominated most aspects of usage of web 2.0 such as YouTube, blogs, Myspace, etc. Below is a snapshot from the article:
The idea that something like the internet can and has changed the way an entire process works like politics is extremely interesting to me. Not only does this have immediate ramifications, but the way politics currently work will never be the same. Additionally, they will be constantly changing with the newest technology that is being introduced each year. What new popular site will be dominating in five years? Will it be Twitter or Facebook still? Who knows?
In addition to web site visits, Obama is shown to dominate Myspace friends as well as YouTube views. I can remember him posting on YouTube regularly, and I think he still might.
As many know, the impact of polls is what will drive the political strategists. Part of the study done was to see the effect on the Gallup Polls when using various media. Blogs are (surprisingly) the only significantly associated medium at 0.05 with an increase/decrease. Below is the image:
This article hits a few main interested for me: Social media and politics. I feel there is much more than can be done with this research. It will be hard to get a large body of information on how web 2.0 practices and ideas can truly affect an election because
1.) they happen every four years; data in the information age is sparse
2.) social media and web 2.0 just became a game changer for the 2008 election
There are a couple issues with the paper, and they are mentioned in the future research section. The way that the information was gathered and the data sets need to be refined. How can you measure the effectiveness on something like social media/web 2.0 which is so huge with something like elections? The information you have to gather will be all different. If you are measuring how positively/negatively it can change a campaign, how do you separate the data apart from one another?
The study also only encompasses one election in one country. It would be interesting to see how this applies to other countries as well over multiple elections. You can’t truly measure the effectiveness of social media on all elections without more data.
How will social media change elections? Has has it? I like to think that this will be a continued topic over the next few years. It would be silly to think that in the 2012 election that the candidates will dismiss the power of the tool. I would very much like a topic in this area for further research, but would have to do some thinking about where I would want to take it. Perhaps something about how or why the Blogosphere is such a more dominant contributor to the Gallup polls.