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How social media is influencing political campaigns

Michael Bloomberg , the entrepreneur and former mayor of New York City, spent over $1 billion in his short-lived presidential campaign before he dropped out of it in March 2020. Over 70% of the budget was spent on advertising.

Bloomberg’s extraordinary expenditure shows how much money it takes to be a candidate for office in America. It also highlights why it is so hard for newcomers in politics to gain momentum in the polls, especially without access to wealthy donors. This problem persists through successive election cycles. It is for this reason that up to 90% incumbents are reelected, a phenomenon called “the incumbency benefit.”

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How has the Internet revolutionized political campaigns?

Social media has revolutionized the political landscape, allowing both incumbents and newcomers to communicate directly with their constituents about everything from policies to dinner. Barack Obama, who ran for president in 2008, was the first to use Twitter, which at the time was still very new. Donald Trump also used Twitter daily to express his views without the filters of traditional media.

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Pinar Yildirim, a Wharton professor of marketing, said: “The way politicians communicate today is very different from the way they used to communicate in the past five or 10 years.” They would use the official speakers, or be on television. Print or online, they would appear in official newspapers. They communicate today through Twitter. This begs the question: Why are they doing this? “Is it beneficial to communicate on Twitter?”

Yildirim’s study offers some answers. ” Political Contributions and Social Media: The Impact on New Technology” written by Maria Petrova and Ananya Sen, found that political newcomers could get a significant boost in support using social media channels. These cost almost nothing and can be accessed by anyone with internet access. This finding is significant because it shows how social media can be used to level the playing fields in politics.

In an opinion article for the Globe Post, the authors stated that “never before have politicians been as accessible to the general public.” Yildirim spoke recently about the findings of the researchers during a segment on the Wharton Business Daily Radio Show on Sirius XM. Listen to the podcast on the top of the page.

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The study will be published by Management Science. It measured the support for a particular candidate based upon donations made by individuals and whether this support increased when that candidate opened a Twitter account or Facebook page. Yildirim and her colleagues were surprised by the significant impact of Twitter: within a month, politicians raised between 1%-3% of what would have been raised during a traditional two-year campaign. This benefit was almost entirely for newcomers and not incumbents. It was amplified by candidates who included links to additional information.

Yildirim said that there was no advantage to assuming an older candidate. There is simply more information to learn about the new candidates.

This is not about your constituency’s age. She said that it’s not because newcomers to politics are more tech-savvy or younger, and they use social media as a way to communicate with and locate those individuals. “We tested them all, and they are not the main drivers.”

Social media can help new candidates humanize themselves. This helps voters connect with them. Former Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg used his Twitter account to introduce his shelter dogs to his 2,000,000 followers . U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren also used her Instagram to interact live with her supporters who contributed small amounts to her campaign.

These small contributions, which are usually between $5 and $100, seem unlikely to make a difference in a campaign worth millions of dollars. Researchers said that they were an important part in the voting process, because they represented hope.

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Yildirim explained that “there’s this notion that if many of us donate small amounts over time, that eventually will become a sea and help this person get elected in the future.” “Donations are important in many ways.”

All communication counts in politics

Will Facebook eliminate the national televised news interviews or debates that have been the hallmark of traditional political campaigns since the 1980s? Most likely not. Yildirim has pointed out that organic coverage by newspapers and television stations is free, and reaches an extensive audience. Paid advertising, while expensive, allows candidates to send a targeted message to a particular audience. However, so does social media. It is a powerful, low-cost tool for political competition.

Yildirim said, “You don’t need to be rich, have a lot of money, have a lot of supporters, or have countless fundraisers to be able communicate with your constituents on Twitter and share your future plans.” You can tell them who you are and what your values are. This is what politicians usually do. They talk about themselves. They talk about themselves. You can talk about what you want to achieve and your policies if elected. You can do this before you declare your candidacy for an office.

They believe that the intersection between social media and politics has ripe ground for further research. Their paper is an important contribution to the field. This finding suggests that social media, with the right strategy, could eliminate incumbency and bring American politics to their roots.



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