Today’s society is saturated with technology such as smartphones, MacBooks, and iPads. And as technology progresses it seems that nearly every source of news – CNN, The New York Times, Huffington Post – has generated some sort of app to diffuse content. Every part of the news has gone mobile, including politics.
Earlier this month, Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney stated that he would announce his selection of Vice President via mobile app. Whether this was a strategic political tactic or simply a shift towards embracing mobile technology, this move marks a time where politics and social media are beginning to go hand in hand. In the opinion of Mobile Marketing Watch, “For Romney, the move into mobile territory comes as smartphones, tablets, and social media are poised to play a huge role in presidential politics this fall.”
Both presidential candidates already have campaign apps that serve as a political aggregate of information to stay updated with both campaigns.
“Our focus remains on helping make grass-roots organizing as easy and accessible as possible for the volunteers and supporters that are the heart and the soul of this campaign,” said Stephanie Cutter, the deputy campaign manager for Mr. Obama, to the New York Times. Offering an accurate source of information while expanding the number of supporters during the campaign is a primary goal for both candidates.
This election year even marks the first time in which the Republican and Democratic Convention will be offering live stream convention coverage and social media plug-ins through its Convention App.
“Now, these devices are everywhere, and we have the fantastic opportunity to provide guests, and the public who are interested in the convention, with a mobile application that is cutting edge, easy to use and fun,” said Ken Jones, president of the GOP convention, in a statement.
And as technology continues to develop, so will online access to politics.
But how does this input of technology change the field of politics and what does the trend of increasing social media mean for future elections? Urban Times has compiled a list of possible trends that may occur within the next few years.
Polarization in politics and the confirmation bias
Although there will be more fodder for political thought as social media grows, it will only cement the central Republican/Democrat split. As social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook require politicians to be succinct and effective in their choice of words, it will require politicians to highlight key differences between the main candidates. The fancy political rhetoric that continues to flourish in the blogosphere may soon turn into concise news stories. Once polarization between these parties continues to grow, the pool of other party members (Tea Party and Independents) will be seen less and less in the future scope of media politics.
Not only that, but the sociological phenomenon of the confirmation bias plays a huge role in this aspect. As Deanna Zandt stated in a Forbes article, confirmation bias means that:
If I see evidence that supports what I already believe, I will support that evidence. If the evidence is neutral, I will interpret it in a way that supports what I believe. And, if the evidence completely contradicts what I believe, I will discount the evidence, dig my heels in deeper and keep believing what I want.
The internet allows anyone, regardless of political party, to visit websites or social media sites that confirm their beliefs. People will be able to filter out political prose that they deem is either too extremist or not in alignment with their certain beliefs.
Moreover, as a New York Times article explained, “(Cass R. Sunstein’s book, Going to Extremes, demonstrates how) the electorate is already exposed to a natural inclination toward polarized views. And once grouped in their respective parties, they drive each other to more partisan views.”
Political Journalism 3.0
As social media like Twitter allow for quick and concise replies to ongoing events, political journalism is entering into a similar realm of fast and efficient networking.
For example, a recent Politico piece explained the rapid reaction to a Mitt Romney crack about President Obama’s birth certificate.
Immediately after his statement, The Washington Post’s Phil Tucker tweeted, “Did Mitt Romney make a birther joke?”
Only a few minutes later both the Romney and Obama campaigns issued their own interpretations to the tweet.
This may seem insignificant but the ways in which political journalism are now reaching certain demographics is beginning to change. As the same article points out: “Four years ago, the fallout from a controversial remark would have taken hours, if not a full day, to unfold.”
Social media in 2012 allows reporters to immediately hash out information to a local or national market within seconds. Not only that but it puts pressure on news sources to constantly stay updated with current events.
The one day story, as Dylan Byers of Politico argues, has become the one-hour story.
One positive aspect of this increased flow of information in social media is that a larger demographic of people, especially young adults, will be more aware of current political news. It may also stir voters from the apathy that has been so prevalent amongst the majority of the inactive American electorate.
Granted, there have been some questions as to whether social media has a significant impact on voter turnout. Many actually accuse Twitter and Facebook of fuelling apathetic beliefs toward voting, but that will soon change.
Rob Dale writing in the Guardian estimated that:
Our lackluster voting trends will gradually change for the better as we put more energy into these new, radical bottom-up tools of communication. With some nurturing…social media can indeed transform what democracy is and how it is exercised.
This could possibly make great strides amongst a younger electorate, who don’t necessarily view voting as a citizen’s duty.
Another article in CNN stated:
“The reason for the apparent gap between young online enthusiasm and their voting behavior… (is because) they prefer non-institutional civic involvement. To them being a citizen means attending a rally, boycotting a product and donating online – but not necessarily voting.”
Perhaps social media will serve to bridge that gap, and encourage young eligible voters to come to the polls on Election Day. In the optimum outcome, social media could very well result in a paradigm shift that causes young voters to view voting as a commendable obligation than an unnecessary imposition.