By Ariana Dispalatro,
Earlier this year, Facebook celebrated its tenth anniversary. Twitter is eight years old and Instagram has only been out for just over three years. Meanwhile, the United States has records of popular vote presidential elections since 1824, close to 200 years.
However, from the 2004 presidential election to the 2012 presidential election, there was only a 2.23 percent increase in the voter turnout, from 55.27 percent to 57.4 percent. Although 2 percent represents an increase of several hundred thousand-voters, social media has not yet been an overly effective method to encouraging people to vote.
A healthy voter turnout has been sought after in all types of elections. Those running for office know that campaigning is not just getting out their message, but encouraging people to vote. Good ideas won’t help anyone win an election if no one votes.
It is this reason that has made politicians fight for the votes of underrepresented groups, such as college students, women, and minorities. Of these groups, college students and women are the primary users of social media. According to Pew Internet Project, approximately 79 percent of women use social media as compared to 69 percent of men. An astounding 90 percent of young adults from 18 to 29 utilize social media versus 78 percent of those between 30 and 49 years of age and 65 percent of those between 50 and 64 years of age. Factors such as race, ethnicity, education level, and income do not present as large of a difference. This study also shows that, as of September 2013, 71 percent of online adults use Facebook and only 18 percent of online adults use Twitter. This statistic is quite interesting because politicians appear to use Twitter more often than Facebook.
Before social media, campaigning was much more important since it was impossible to reach every person. Additionally, the rise in social media also contributed to the rise in public awareness and knowledge of political scandal. Social media has allowed voters to know their politicians better, both for better and for worse. Ultimately, social media has change the political landscape, but without a drastic rise in political awareness and responsibility. With social media still growing, there is still time to find the key to increasing voter turnout and reaching a true representation of citizens.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Mar. 25 print edition.
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