Opinion » Cybernaut


The social media election?



Back when the social media concept was new, pundits had a field day wondering how it would affect the political conversation and whether tweets, blog posts, Facebook posts, etc. could affect the outcome of future elections.

You can't deny that the technology has power - Barack Obama used social media to great effect to raise a lot of money and win the Democratic primary, and it was a core part of his campaign and support network to win the election. As noted, he will go down in history at the first "Facebook" president.

But that sort of advantage only works once. My guess is the Republican Party will match the Democrats tweet for tweet in the next election, and will have done everything in their power to bridge the social media gap - despite the fact that young people tend to be a lot more adept at social media, and tend to vote Democrat when they vote at all.

In Whistler's campaign, social media is also playing an active role, from Twitter feeds to lively debates on Facebook. Some candidates are also using LinkedIn, and I wouldn't be surprised to find one or two on Google+ and FourSquare. Candidate websites are also linked to the social network so there's some consistency between every platform; they can also post once and have that post appear on multiple platforms.

The question of whether any of it will have a real impact on this campaign will likely never be answered, unless somebody spends big money on exit interviews at polling stations. Plus, it's safe to say that municipal politics are a lot different than a presidential race where you could follow Obama and McCain and your local two or three-way races for Congress and Senate with relative ease. In the 2008 election, just 2,903 people turned out to vote for a field of four mayors and 17 councillors - a dismal turnout representing about 34.8 per cent of eligible voters. To get a spot on council you needed about 1,321 votes, which is probably around 14 per cent of eligible voters on the rolls.

This election is more complicated, for lack of a better word. Between council, mayor and school board races there will be a record 35 names on the ballot on Nov. 19. It's one thing for two presidential candidates to trade tweets and Facebook posts, it's entirely another to try and follow so many candidates across so many platforms. If every candidate had a blog, Twitter account and Facebook page, and all of those platforms were updated regularly that's 105 things to read every day plus comments, links, etc. It's almost too much information for one voter to process.

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