Survey Says: Social Media Doesn’t Dominate U.S. Elections…Yet

David Rehr from GW’s Graduate School of Political Management sent over the slides below earlier today, which summarize the findings of a study in which he participated that looked at social media’s role in the 2012 elections. The results are based on a survey of adult Americans on how they used social media for politics and political news, and the results are worth going through, for sure. Slides are below, with some observations after the break.

First big takeaway: the people surveyed did not list “social media” as a primary source of news, relying much more on news from the campaigns themselves or from more-traditional gatekeepers like newspapers and cable news channels (including their websites). But, when asked about how it had affected their opinions about a candidate, relatively high percentages saw social media as having at least some effect on how they felt. Note that the study did NOT break out HOW people saw political news; even if a story came from the Washington Post, many may actually have encountered it via a link posted on Facebook, something that would take extra questions to dig out.

Also note that young people were far more likely to use social media for politics than their elders. This will be an interesting trend to watch — will the current college-age cohort continue to indicate their political leanings on Facebook and Twitter as they age? Or, will their behavior change as they start to face more social and professional consequences for wearing their ideological hearts on their sleeves? Note that around a quarter of people have hidden or de-friended someone because of their expression of political views.

For more juicy tidbits, see Slide 28 for a list of how people chose to use social media in politics (watching a video = popular, checking in on Foursquare from a campaign event, not so much — actually, one obvious finding from the survey is the extent to which Foursquare’s become an afterthought in the social space). Finally, jump to the end for the authors’ own conclusions (slides 50-52), based on the data. Interesting stuff!

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