Social Media and Politics: Candidates Interact Directly with Voters

Living in Washington D.C. and working for a public affairs firm has made me more politically inclined than ever before, and I still feel as though there is too much information for me to fully grasp everything that is being thrown my way. Which is not a good thing – especially during a high-intensity election year.

I could spend hours sifting through the campaign sites on the New York Times or Washington Post Web sites trying to educate myself on the myriad issues that presidential and congressional candidates are addressing in their platforms, but as a Gen Yer I want something a little more… personal, conversational, direct. And then I want to read news articles to supplement these conversations – they shouldn’t be my sole source.

Luckily, politicians are taking advantage of social media tactics that make campaigns more personal with their constituents (hey, isn’t that a novel idea?). Federal and state Senators and Representatives are blogging (and allowing comments). The White House has a Twitter account. Barack Obama has changed the face of online campaigning with his appearances on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. John McCain is breaking the generation stereotype and showing up on these outlets, too (albeit with far less momentum than his opponent). Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has joined the conversation, and even several government agencies are showing up on the new media map. Both the House and the Senate have Twitter accounts to track legislation moving across their respective floors.

I don’t know about you, but this is very exciting for me. For the first time, I feel like I’m hearing these messages directly from the people I may or may not be voting for. There isn’t a staged press conference, no paid advertisements – just an open dialogue where I can interact with the people who will be representing my voice.

Actually, on that point, an interesting thing I’d like to know is just how interactive are these politicians and groups. I’m not talking in terms of updating and using the tools, but the practicality of it – if I were to @BarackObama on Twitter a question about his platform, what are the odds he’d get back to me or even see the Tweet amidst his 40,000+ followers? Does John McCain (okay, I’ll even take a staff member who might relay information to him!) actually check to see how many people are watching his YouTube videos?

So while this is an excellent step in bridging the gap between politicians and the people they serve, I hope true engagement and interaction do not take a back seat to the publicity and fund raising elements that these tactics have obviously ignited.

Regardless, I’m very happy to have multiple media to evaluate and learn about candidates’ and their platforms while also staying informed about current government issues. As a social media aficionado, I hope to see this trend expand as more and more in the public affairs realm begin to experiment, and I’d also like to see the effect this has on young voters this fall.

So what about you? Are you using any of these tools to stay up-to-date on the candidates or other issues? Do you think this will help politicians reach out to audiences that might have been missed otherwise?


3 thoughts on “Social Media and Politics: Candidates Interact Directly with Voters

  1. Hi Meg and thanks for your post.
    Your observation is very sound. I think the other benefit of this “direct” discussion is to cut down communication cost. So candidates, could be are less dependant of the influence group that funds their campaign. That gives more power to democracy.

  2. I think it’s great! since I have my twitter client open constantly it’s great to have political news thrown in there and it’s an easy way to keep up with the candidates.

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