Mario Sundar

LinkedIn's 2nd PR hire. These are my thoughts on products, public relations, and startups.

Why Social Media won’t matter in the 2008 elections

No, I don’t believe Social Media is dead, because I believe that there is a definite value to social media in Corporate America (see my posts here & here), however I don’t think Social Media matters in politics. It just doesn’t — yet!

My friend, Jeremiah, has come up with a thorough analysis of why he believes Social Media matters in the next presidential election. However, here’s why I don’t believe we are there — yet. Given below are interesting stats from our most recent elections:

* The voting rate was higher among the older citizen population than the younger citizen population

* Here’s a % Age Breakdown of voters:

Voter Age . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . % who voted
18 to 24 years . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9.3 %
25 to 34 years . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14.5 %
35 to 44 years . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19.5 %
45 to 54 years . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21.3 %
55 years and older . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35.3 %

(Source: US Census Bureau — Voting and Registration Stats 2004)

The age groups that I believe could be tech savvy (18 to 34) constitute only 23.8% of the voting population, while the rest constitute a majority 76.1% of voters!

However, “an increase of 12.5 million registered citizensmen voted in the 18-and-older population for the first time in the presidential elections.”

So, as the old gives way to the new wave of tech-savvy voters who have been raised on web 2.0, there will be a definite push towards a more social media focused campaign. But for now, social media doesn’t matter — atleast in the 2008 elections!

Do you think social media will make a difference in the 2008 elections?

Filed under: Uncategorized

14 Responses

  1. Paul McEnany says:

    Mario-

    You’re falling into the trap!

    Social Media is already hugely important. Just look at Virginia if you need an example. Without YouTube, George Allen would likely still be a senator and presidential hopeful, now both of those hopes are dashed. Would his racial slur ever have become such a big story without the ability to pass it around so easily?

    And, that’s just the most obvious one. But, past that, how many millions of dollars were raised last year using social media? Meetup.com was huge not just in 2006, but in 2004 as well. Left wing and right wing blogs generated money and drummed up support for the candidates.

    Just like any other viral story, it’s usually not about the how many, but the who. That smaller group of influencers on the internet pick up on a story, many times breaking it themselves, and then bring it to critical mass. Social media is hugely important, and candidates that learn how to work with it, not against it, have some real opportunities.

    Alright, hopefully that made some sense. I just woke up. 🙂

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  2. Mario, I have to respectfully disagree. Social media might not matter as much as some of us say it will during the elections, but it will still matter. It still gives these guys a platform where they can influence votes/decisions one way or another and the audience is now large enough that it could literally be the difference between being elected and not.

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  3. Hi Mario,

    I think Social Media can certainly have an impact on elections, notably if a story breaks by a blogger about a candidate doing something that they shouldn’t be doing. At the same time, these stories tend to be amplified by the traditional media as well, so the stories will have dual distribution channels (if that makes sense).

    I also think that you will see a shift in influence as the younger voters get “older”.

    Like

  4. Mario,

    I love the blog and have a great deal of respect for you, but in this case I have to disagree. I think social media is going to have a large impact in the 2008 elections. We have seen already with the latest 06 elections that unlike in the past the candidates cannot control the story. The story is what the blogs and people say it is and not the press agents. People’s opinions and thoughts on these candidates are going to have a huge impact on the 08 elections and more importantly, I think social media will play a big role early on in the elections. They will determine who are the people to beat and come out of Iowa with a full head of steam. Keep up the great work!!

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  5. Hi Mario,

    And here’s something about the top 10 Wikipedia entries:

    http://adage.com/digital/article.php?article_id=114014

    You will note that the Mark Foley scandal made the top 10. If memory serves correct, the page making the accusations broke the story on the web as well.

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  6. Oh man, everyone is not agreeing with you Mario.

    Please remember that the Web is the number one medium in the workplace for usage in North America.

    Workers are people that vote, and they use the web.

    Social Media is integrated well in the web, and will continue to do so.

    Sorry bud, but it’s going to matter.

    Like

  7. Mario Sundar says:

    Thanks, guys, for your enthusiastic responses to this post. It reinforces my belief that power of citizen media rules! The question is — will it impact the outcome of the 2008 elections? Let me address your individual comments:

    Paul,
    Well said; Macaca definitely was a slur that was remembered. Looks like Damon also picked up on the fact that social media could amplify sensational political stories virally and thereby negatively impact a candidate.

    IF the 2008 elections were to be decided by a wafer thin majority, then I do believe that social media will have an impact. As Cameron rightly points out “the audience is now large enough that it could literally be the difference between being elected and not.”

    Cord,
    You make a good point about how blogging and citizen media has killed spin and has moved the focus towards honesty in politics. That is definitely a development we shall all benefit from.

    J,
    I’m glad that we have a vociferous team of fellow bloggers who believe in the power of social media and it’s ability to rock the vote in 2008.

    Thanks, J, for stirring a great discussion.

    Like

  8. Mike says:

    Wouldn’t the point of using the social media be to increase the number of young people that get interested in the issues and therefore decide to vote. Also, young people tend to have the “What difference does it make to me?” attitude. A well run social media campaign will allow to readers to actually interact with the candidates and political parties. Getting that kind of feedback could influence people to show up and vote.

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  9. Hi Mario,

    Hmmm..this has me thinking a bit…

    If anything, I’ve seen the power to negatively impact a candidate via social media. I am not entirely sure just yet if it will have positive benefits for a candidate just yet (Howard Dean, who embraced social media & the web, did fail in his bid for the Presidency). If there’s one thing I’ve learned, bad news travels much faster on the web than good news;-)

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  10. Mario Sundar says:

    Mike,

    You’ve definitely got Damon and me thinking now. Great explanation!

    To be honest, I was a tad disappointed, after the “Vote or Die” campaign on MTV was deemed a failure. However, given the growing power of social media, I definitely foresee in the future (maybe near future), politicians using social media to start conversations w/ their constituents – 1 on 1.

    Actually, watching Scoble’s honest interview of John Edwards on Podtech, has softened my harsh view of politics in general.

    Great thoughts!

    Like

  11. Hi Mike,

    “A well run social media campaign will allow to readers to actually interact with the candidates and political parties. Getting that kind of feedback could influence people to show up and vote.”

    Are you envisioning a “virtual town hall” meeting? If so, I do think it would be a good idea for a smart politician (oxymoron, I know).

    Something I read earlier today…
    Most people shape their political views very early in life (20’s?). If so, would the campaigning do that much to sway someone? As for me, I have largely been Democratic most of my life. As I get older, however, I am starting to become more of a “Social Libertarian”….

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  12. Mario Sundar says:

    I’d definitely, love to hear Mike’s response to our take, Damon.

    Count me in, as another vocal supporter, of the “Virtual town hall” meeting. I think, given the technology feasibility, it’d be an awesome idea to generate some impetus to SHOW UP & VOTE!

    Being Democratic, is hard enough, buddy. What’s up with the Libertarian aspect of it all?!!

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  13. Hi Mario,

    While I have traditionally voted Democratic, I lean very Libertarian in some ways as well (I want limited government interference in our daily lives, don’t think that behavior, unless criminal, needs to be legislated, etc.). I actually think that many people around our age are starting to blend their political beliefs, which means that they aren’t clinging to the same parties as before (simply Democratic/Republican). I think Chris Rock said it best (paraphrased):
    You’re an idiot if you vote for someone/something if you don’t look at the issue first.

    I’ve even voted for Republican candidates. Just not for President…yet:-)

    Like

  14. […] proponents speak of the impact the Internet has on politics, naysayers such as Mario Sundar tell us why social media won’t matter in the 2008 elections, based on the age breakdown on voters according to the US […]

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