The 2016 Social Media Campaign

This year’s presidential campaign has been coined something of a “circus.” (And yes, I did leave out any direct reference to the presidential election in the header.) Antics on both sides have been started via social media or justly called out in the virtual space. But how important is it that social media has taken on this new, almost overpowering role?

Vast majority of Americans learning about the 2016 presidential campaign; cable news seen as most helpful source type

While Cable TV news is undoubtedly the leading force in digital campaigning, SM is next in line. Broken down even farther reveals more:

Beyond Facebook, small portions of the public learn about the elections on social media

Facebook and Twitter (sorry, YouTube – no time for you) have become the broader and increasingly easier places to consume news. In this case, political news. Twitter Trends, a constantly updating top ten of all related conversations occurring in the Twitter-sphere. It exists on the left-most portion of one’s Twitter feed. The screenshot of yellow #hashtags below is biased towards my location (Boston, MA) but ultimately reveals the high level Twitter trends seen globally. Facebook similarly rolled out its Trending section on the right side of its News Feed, going further in its breakdown of categories – one of which includes “Politics.”

If you’ve given even the slightest amount of attention to your social media feeds in the past few months it is almost certain you have found yourself influenced via the political campaigning, knowingly or not. It has been a constant torrent of articles, posts, Tweets, and cringeworthy .gifs – including this one from Ted Cruz’s recent dropout from the race:


Go ahead and watch that a few more times…

My thoughts on the evolution of political campaigning’s attention to social media have been confused. If you look at the polling turnout for different age demographics, the 18-29 age bracket has been faltering. While active online, only 45% of potential voters within this age actually went out to vote in the 2012 election. Ages 45+ average at almost 70% voter turnout.

Screen Shot 2016-05-07 at 12.18.57 PM

So why is SM important if the younger people aren’t showing up?

In brief, because the youth is already outnumbered online. The web and social media is no longer “for the kid,” rather, it has quite thoroughly embedded itself into the lives of our parents and elders.

Screen Shot 2016-05-07 at 12.15.12 PMScreen Shot 2016-05-07 at 12.15.27 PM

Above, it becomes more obvious why Facebook is dominating as influencer amongst the online political campaigns. Its largest portion of the user base is the 35-54 year old demographic, who just happens to also vote at or near the highest rate of all demographics.

Did you realize our age demographic’s true place in the online hierarchy?


  1. First off, I couldn’t stop laughing at that Cruz .gif. I’m curious to see how SM will be used once the election is narrowed down to two candidates. I wonder if it will be used more to promote a candidate’s own brand or to disparage the other. In Trump’s case; however, that could be a double edged sword. Also, in terms of those Facebook statistics, I wonder how many of those people are US specific, as non-citizens can’t actually vote in the election.

  2. Ted Cruz mad me cringe this whole primary so I am sad to see him go along with the endless comedy he brought to the campaign trail. I was shocked to see the age breakdown of Facebook users and the politicians should definitely be shifting around some money to make sure they advertise on social media more. Also I worry that social media is such a big source for people to learn about the election. With TV, there is a company to be held responsible for what they broadcast, but with social media there is a lot of crap out there with no journalistic integrity. Not sure if people should be using social media as a source to base their votes on.

  3. Great post. I agree this election cycle has been a bit of a circus and it’s hard to argue social media hasn’t contributed to this. Donald Trump’s use of Twitter has provided the public with an almost unfiltered stream of consciousness that no candidate has had before. I think he’s used his controversial tweets and Facebook posts to keep his name in the headlines and the conversation centered around him. Just this morning I was reading a Twitter argument between Trump and Elizabeth Warren. While I would expect this kind of thing from a 7th grader, it was surprising for that type of confrontation to be between the Republican nominee for president and a US Senator. However, I guess that’s what social media has brought us to. Going forward, I’m sure we’re just at the tip of the iceberg too. I think the general election will only amplify the craziness we’ve already seen.

  4. yifanhong04233 · ·

    Great post. Ted Cruz gif is so funny that you make my day! One thing about social media in presidential elections is that it makes candidates more really. Instead of standard politicians, they are more like common people with emotions. I read a report that social media posts awards Trump exposure worths 2 billion dollars. However, social media is also a double-edge sword–the more people like you, the more people hate you. Therefore, how to better use social media is an art.

  5. That video of Ted Cruz is hilarious. This is a very informative post! It was very interesting to see the age breakdown. I think social media is going to become increasingly important in politics. That is something I should have mentioned in my presentation today.

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