I wrote up a short piece about the impact of social media in the 2012 election. It will come out in print this month and I wanted to share it here as well.
Election Night Watch Party at the Maxwell School (2012), a set on Flickr.
As part of my “Social Media and the 2012 Election” I organized an “Election Night Watch Party” together with many student volunteers in the Strasser Commons at the Maxwell School. We had a great line up of speakers who provided insights into the main topics covered by the campaigns and commented on the first results when the polling stations closed at 8pm.
Here is a nice write-up in our campus newspaper The Daily Orange.
The program for the night included:
- Welcome Remarks and Program Overview from Professor Ines Mergel and Professor Robert McClure
- Short Speeches on Campaign Issues, hosted by students Emily Ruddock and Andrew McQuaide, featuring:
- Professor Len Burman: Tax Policy
- Associate Professor Margaret Thompson: Religious and Gender Issues
- Billy Kluttz: Maxwell Pride on ballot issues
- Professor Thomas Dennison: Health Policy
- Professor Margaret Hermann: Political Personailities
- Professor Robert McClure: American Leadership
- Assistant Professor Ines Mergel: Social Media
- Analysis, hosted by Ruddock and McQuaide, featuring:
- Associate Professor Thomas Keck, Chair, Department of Political Science
- Professor Bill Smullen, Faculty Chair, National Security Program
- Maxwell Polling Results
On Friday night the news broke, that the Romney campaign was planning to reveal the vice-president in a live TV covered event at 9:05am the next day. Within a few hours however, all major news-outlets stated “Mitt Romney picks Paul Ryan”. There was no question mark, no speculation. Only these plain statements – quoting sources close to the campaign.
Online, there was however very little indication on 8/9/12 that the information was leaked: The USA Today/Twitter Election meter showed negative sentiments towards both candidates at an all time low (since #Twindex data was revealed to the public): Obama 20; Romney 12. This number was stable until late Saturday evening when the Twitter index was finally updated – which seems to happen only once per day: Obama 32; Romney 39.
As a result, people were buying shares for their favorite veep pick, Paul Ryan on the Intrade prediction market. Ryan was favorited by 95% of the buyers:
On Saturday morning social media came into play. Romney’s Twitter account officially confirmed his pick – even before he went on stage in Norfolk, VA:
An hour later, Paul Ryan’s newly established Twitter account confirmed the news as well:
The account name “@PaulRyanVP” was initially not verified by Twitter and it took the company a few hours to add the blue checkmark to the account. As a result the followers jumped up from a handful to several thousands. Controversy around the account’s name eluded people to the fact that Paul Ryan already labels himself (or let’s say his campaign team labels him) VP = Vice-president. People are asking legitimate questions, as the following tweet by Chris Geidner shows:
Romney campaign aide Beth Myers confirmed in a statement to the press, that Romney had already made his pick earlier in August, after he returned from his first visit abroad. She presented the campaign’s strategy on how they kept the decision under wraps right after the announcement to the press.
@140Elect reports that the @PaulRyanVP Twitter account was created on August 2, 2012 which confirms that the VP decision has already been made weeks ago. It is unclear however why the campaign chose to reveal the candidate two weeks later, on a war ship at a time when only half of the country can watch the news at 9:00am on a Saturday morning.
During the exciting events of the day, other social media tools were ignored by the campaign. As an example, the iPhone app “America’s Comeback Team” did not inform its users as advertised. Instead, the screen stayed blank even after the world heard the announcement, as this screenshot from Anthony De Rosa shows:
Twitter was also the first place where the campaign’s logo was revealed – on @PaulRyanVP’s account:
The Romney campaign clearly had their sight set on Twitter and ignored Facebook – the Paul Ryan Vice-President Facebook account was established just an hour before the official announcement.
At the end of the day, the futures markets weren’t impressed by the Vice-President pick. As an example, the Iowa Electronic Market for the 2012 US Presidential Election Vote Share Market still lists a win by the democratic candidate at 60%:
2. Barack Obama on Twitter
3. The presidential blog change.gov
4. Facebook applications, including iphone application, causes application, “donate your status” application, “I voted” application, etc.
5. Official Youtube videos used on change.gov