Social Media is Changing the Scope of Presidential Debates


Before you read this article please forget about the political angle this article is being written from. This is not the purposes of why I am posting this article, but rather to focus on the aspects of the debate watching experience that has been changed from by use of social media.

Question: Will the use of social media for discussions about the debate spark greater interest in the upcoming election amongst the American people? Will the ability to interact with other American citizens about the upcoming election inspire more people to go vote? Or will buzz around the debates/election generated from social media stay in the digital space and not get American citizens to the voting booths in November? I think this is a very interesting question to see how strong a correlation is present between social media interaction in the digital space and action by voters (particularly young potential voters who actively use social media) in the physical space on the days leading up to and including election day.

Below are some interesting pieces of information from the article:

11.1 million comments were made on twitter about the debate. Just north of 50 million viewers tuned into TV to watch, which means, that a little less than 20% of debate viewers were tweeting while watching. I realize that individuals may have tweeted multiple times which will skew the percentages, but this is only a rough estimate. This makes the debate 4th highest rating for tweet count for a telecast, only behind this years Grammy’s, VMA’s and Super Bowl, according to Crowdwire.

Twitter announced that the debate was the most tweeted event in US political history. I attribute this to the recent rise of social media to the main stream and the integration of social media in the news. For example, the article mentioned how broadcasters were looking at their twitter feeds for debate reaction. Would you agree that these ratings are based on the current popularity of social media or do you have another take on why this event was so popular?

I believe the 2012 presidential election will see unprecedented levels of interest due to social media. This will stem form the ability for all citizens to express their feelings and thoughts about each candidate in a method that will allow much greater audience reach. Furthermore, the integration of social media, specifically twitter, into the broadcasting of the debates will, in my opinion, attract much larger viewing audiences who actively participate in commenting in real-time. The more interesting question will be if the interest generated through social media about the election will produce record turn outs for voting in November.



9 thoughts on “Social Media is Changing the Scope of Presidential Debates

  1. It’s hard to really say whether its Twitter and social media platforms would be the reason for increasing interest in the election this year but its definitely true that it plays a large part in gaining awareness. Twitter was able to keep people in the loop of the debates even if people chose not to watch the debates live. On the same note, if people who are not particularly interested in the debates are still able to stay informed with quick bits of information of tweets, then it is definitely plausible to say that social media will increase interest. However, people still have to choose to see these tweets and follow the right people. It’s also interesting that people could be interacting with Twitter and other social media platforms to voice their thoughts, opinions, or to stay knowledgeable but who’s to say that they will actually show up at the voting booths? They might be interested now because social media has allowed it to be so easily involved, yet, they might not care enough for either party to vote. Definitely an interesting perspective on the first debates and how social media has changed the way people are staying interested and informed during an election year. There is a vast difference in how people can stay up-to-date with the election with this year in comparison with 2008.

  2. Not only do I believe that social media is indirectly educating people on various political platforms, it is more importantly spreading awareness on the issues and furthermore re-emphasizing the importance of voting. When the accounts you check on a daily basis “trend” on the election, it makes you sit back and think, “If I haven’t registered, maybe I should register” or “If I have registered, do I have an opponent in mind or do I know what issues matter to me.” Ultimately I think that is the power of politics by means of social media, the daily reminder that this election like all others in the past is a big deal.

  3. I don’t think that social media itself creates the increased interest in the election, nor does the online interaction inspire others to vote. I think that it creates an interest in what people are saying on various social media platforms. I would hope that people aren’t relying solely on social media to become informed and aware about the issues- in part because the majority of things posted are opinions, immediate reaction, and at times inaccurate information. I don’t think that social media does much for bringing awareness to the unaware. Yes, they may be drawn to watch a debate, but only to stay digitally relevant, watching just to look for and subsequent post about the entertaining aspects rather than watching for substance. I do think though that social media will inspire people, particularly the newest generation of young people eligible to vote, to do independent research so that they can familiarize themselves with the facts, which from that will encourage people to vote.

  4. I think for those who already are active voter, social media play the role of strengthening their engagement in election voting. But for those who are not voter, I don’t think commenting election on social media will encourage them to really vote in November. The reason they tweeted it was just because it was a good topic to talk about.

  5. As a foreign student, it is hard for me to answer some of the questions. However, I want to share my own opinion about the debate and social media. I watched the debate online at A lot of twitter comments were shown on the screen. Some of the comments were really good and to the point. It helped me understand the debate to some extent. At the mean time, I was using my iphone making comments on the Chinese twitter called Weibo. A lot of weibo “broadcasted” the debate live by summarizing main ideas and posted online. There were thousands of comments and reposts about the debate especially the one concerning Romney’s statement of not loaning money from China. Before the social media got popular in China, most people didn’t pay too much attention on the US president election. They simply got the news about who won the election. But now, social media creates a platform for people to get involved and make more Chinese people interest in the US election. I believe the 2012 presidential election will see unprecedented levels of interest due to social media not only in the United States but also around the world.

  6. We have to remember that social media, especially mediums such as twitter and facebook allows individuals to “tune out” what ever they do not want to hear. That being the case, I feel social media excites the excitable and engages those that wish to be engaged. I enjoy following the Romney and Obama campaigns and whatever the pundits have to say about them, so I welcome the constant barrage of information.

    As for turnout, its hard to say if social media will impact overall turnout. Obama and McCain’s utilization of social media led to a less than 1% increase in turnout over the previous election (2004: 56.69% compared to 2008: 57.37%). One thing is for certain, it will energize that bases of each party.

  7. I think Social Media is only adding another great layer to the political conversation. We now have fact checkers who are calling these candidates out on their BS to the second! Now the numbers, dates, and details have to be correct or these guys are called out in real time! Amazing. It really shows the audience who did their HW and prepared and who is spewing garbage. Paul Ryan was called out on this in his first real speech when accepting the VP nod and has been WAY more careful since. I think it’s a good thing and only adds to the conversation.

  8. I absolutely believe that the increase in political discussions on social media sites has sparked an interest in people that haven’t been very involved in politics in the past. Typically, our generation hates being left out of the loop, and now that it is a presidential election year, more and more people have been educating themselves on the candidates policies to enter the discussions on social media sites. Our “digital” generation is becoming old enough to see how different political policies effect our lives; therefore, more young people want to make their vote count and have taken to different social media sites to express their opinions. I watched and tweeted during the vice presidential debate last week and was stunned to see how many people I follow were also tweeting about Biden and Ryan. It was great to see friends that I didn’t even know were interested in politics tweeting about the debate because it means all of the talk on these sites is really promoting the election. I also see the negative comments expressing their disgust for people posting their political views, but the positives outweight the negatives in this case. I think social media is a major tool in educating young voters of each candidate so they will vote in the upcoming election.

  9. I think that social media is definitely changing the scope of the presidential debates. It is giving a different platform for people to use to get informed and debate the issues. I think Twitter is being used by a younger generation, one that typically is not as involved as the older generations. It is great to get more opinions heard and more people involved in the election process.

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