How social media affected the US Presidential Election in 2016?
This sociology essay was written by gpalabs.com.
The last presidential elections in 2016 in the US has become a landmark event in global politics, as they highlighted the ever-growing influence of technologies and social media on the political agenda. The scale of that influence sky-rocketed to the allegations of social media impact on the outcome of the election. The analysis shows that even though social media indeed represent a quality tool for political communication, there are negative aspects, such as the manipulation of public opinion, targeted political advertising, and the spread of the falsified information, which shows the probability of influence on the election outcome.
The election campaign of Donald Trump is a prominent example of the ample utilization of new political technologies that heavily rely on the social media as the primary mean of communication. Candidates who can use new communication technologies effectively, often win in their races. This pattern has been repeatedly confirmed on the examples from history: the innovative successes of Franklin Roosevelt with radio, John Kennedy with television, and Barack Obama with the Internet (Jones). Trump skillfully used social media, and unlike Clinton, he invested heavily in political campaigning and promotion of his campaign through the means of the digital media, nearly four times more than Clinton, who relied on traditional media (Nadel). Therefore, it is possible to assume that social networks and new media will become the primary means of promoting political campaigns in the future.
Nevertheless, despite the positive impact of social media on the popularity and reach of candidates, several negative aspects should be noted. First of all, these are possible manipulations of public opinion that can occur through social networks. In this regard, there was a noteworthy scandal involving the British company Cambridge Analytics, which, among other things, was engaged in promoting the campaign of Donald Trump. Therefore, it was established that the company tried to affect the preferences of users of social networks, showing them relevant political advertising on the basis of collected personal data (Rosenberg et al.). This example shows how the collection of data in social networks allows for a targeted impact and the formation of an opinion that is beneficial to specific politicians.
There is also a controversy concerning the traditional media, which actively use social networks as the mean of news spread. The problem is that media nowadays are largely divided along the political spectrum, which entails apparent prejudices and bias against opposing political ideology. Since the news are considered a powerful tool of public manipulation and opinion influence, it has led to a further polarization of the state regarding opposition political positions of Democrats and Republicans.
Furthermore, one of the most positive sides of social media is that they enhanced the dissemination and spread of information across the network. However, the downside of that advantage is that users may distort or spread false data, which is nowadays called fake news. In political elections, it may be used for the negative representation of a political rivalry, manipulation of public opinion, or emotional appeals. For instance, one study established that “four percent of President Barack Obama’s 2012 supporters were dissuaded from voting for Clinton in 2016 by belief in fake news stories” (Blake). Surprisingly, fake of distorted information may appear in both, social media news resources, as well as in well-known national media. The reason is that it is incredibly easy to spread the fake news on the social media, and then some news resources may perceive it as truth due to the poor check of the source and information. Eventually, it may enhance the scope of false information spread.
As is seen, the modern era brought changed traditional technologies and made social media the most critical asset in the spread of information and communication of political leaders with the population. However, the analysis shows that social media may negatively influence the elections, as there is the possibility of public opinion manipulation, the spread of false information or fraud.