The Social Construction of Media: Social Media, Culture, and Everyday Life

Social Media in the 2008 / 2016 Presidential Election


When the first presidential debate aired on television on September 26, 1960, politics was forever changed.  In 1960, about ninety percent of Americans owned a television set.  Senator John F. Kennedy out shown Vice President Richard Nixon by appearing to be visual pleasing to the audience who watched the debate on the television.  From there on out politics was no longer defined by policy, but now included how politicians construct a public image. 
The creation and rise of social media is leading to a new change in how politicians are interacting with the public.  In 2008, almost three quarters of Americans had internet access.  According to the Pew Research Center, for internet users and those under the age of 50, the internet plays an even more central role.  Fully thirty-five percent of those who use the internet get most of their election news online compared to roughly fifteen percent in 2006.  The ability of John McCain and Barack Obama, to use the internet to reach out to their voters was necessary for either one of them to get their voices heard and win the elections.  Part of what helped Obama win the election was the amount online political activism. 

People who voted for Obama participated far more online then people who voted for McCain.  Leading this charge was young adults.  Thirty percent of all people who posted political content online during the 2008 election were under the age of 25.  Getting young people engaged in politics greatly increased Obama’s chances of winning.  In the age group from 18-29 year olds, about sixty-six percent of voters voted for Obama and about thirty-one percent of voters voted for McCain.  Compared to people over the age of 30 about fifty percent voted for Obama and forty-eight percent voted for McCain.  Obama was much more successful at reaching younger voters. 
During the 2016 presidential election candidates looked to increase their presence online even more so then during the 2008 election.  The use of social media allowed the grass roots movement of Bernie Sanders to grow.  Sanders received little support on traditional news and media.  When any coverage was given to Sanders, it was in derision and condescending compared to whom the media responded to the other candidates Trump and Clinton.  The only way Sanders was able to get any coverage was through social media such as Twitter.  Twitter, a social networking microblogging service, uses # or hashtags to tag a tweet so other can find posts on twitter with the same # hashtag.  Twitter was used a lot during the election with both sides of the political debate had popular hashtags trending such as

                                #conservative #republican #firearms #donttreadonme #wethepeople
                                #constitution #trump2016 #trumptrain  #makeamericagreatagain
                                #hillaryforprison2016  #latinosfortrump #lockherup #hillary
                                #gaysfortrump  #votetrump #trump  #imwithher #trumpvshillary

These hashtags were used to show support or protest towards a particular candidate.  Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump used twitter to speak to their voters. 

Hillary Clinton has 9.8 million followers and has tweeted 9 thousand times whereas Donald Trump has 12.6 million followers and has tweeted 33.6 thousand times, Donald Trump has been more successful at reaching people on social media then Hillary Clinton. 

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