Social media will likely influence election outcome

Khadija Saifullah

With the current situation of the presidential election, political organizations and movements are all using social media as a medium for encouraging people to go out and vote.

According to a study conducted at UT, Facebook is a more effective medium for mobilizing voters than traditional “get-out-the-vote” efforts.

The study, “Social Pressure on Social Media: Using Facebook Status Updates to Increase Voter Turnout,” was authored by Katherine Haenschen, a recent Radio-Television-Film graduate school alumna and visiting scholar at the Moody College of Communication.

“The Facebook platform offers its users the ability to generate an increase in turnout by tagging their friends directly,” Haenschen saidin an interview with UT News. “It works to increase turnout among friends who see other people being praised for voting. It shows just how powerful social norms are in terms of driving voting behavior.”

According to the study, simply tagging friends in posts related to voting is not effective enough to motivate people to vote. The best way to increase voter participation is to identify reluctant voters in your social circle and tag them in a Facebook post praising them for voting in the past, subtly reminding them that you’ll know if they skipped the election this time around.

Social media has a larger impact on how we carry ourselves on a daily basis, and subtle encouragement from such platforms will profoundly affect the voter turnout this election season.

Instagram joined the bandwagon by posting a sponsored message onto the news feeds of users who are of voting age encouraging them to go out and vote.

Although most of us still haven’t accepted the unoriginality of Instagram Stories, they have also started using short videos to inspire voters. An Instagram representative said, “Instagram Stories will be integrated into CBS News’ live coverage of the debates — a first for broadcast news — spotlighting the voice and perspective of Millennials.”

The brain’s ability to alter its behavior based on new experiences has been put into overdrive as social media has not just become a habit to scroll down multiple news feeds but a lifestyle and full-time career for many. A lot of people who had previously not paid heed to voting this season may actually find themselves making the effort because of peer pressure on social media or constant exposure to motivational posts online. Because of its increasing prevalence in our lives, social media will have an extensive effect on voter turnout this election.

Saifullah is neuroscience senior from Richardson. Follow her on twitter @coolstorysunao.

This story has been updated.