The Increasing, Not “Modest,” Role of Social Media in Politics
Earlier today, a study was released by Pew’s Internet & American Life Project that found that 36% of social media users say the sites are ‘very important’ or ‘somewhat important’ to them for discussing or learning about political issues. This was interpreted by some to mean that social media doesn’t influence public opinion.
At glance, 25% might seem less than impressive. But order to understand a flourishing medium like social media, it is not sufficient to simply look at snap shots. We must examine trends.
In truth, Pew’s own studies show that social media sites are rapidly gaining influence in the political space. As recently as 2009, only 8% of people on the web even received political information through social media and as little as 4% of Internet users even bothered to join an online political group.
But by the 2010 midterm elections 22% of online Americans were using social networks like Twitter and Facebook for information related to the 2010 midterm elections. Now, as many as 36% of Americans that use social networking sites say that these sites are at least somewhat important to them in keeping up with political news. That’s an enormous leap for a relatively new medium — and indicative of the increasing, not “modest,” impact social media has on political engagement.
Scott is a member of our Fall 2012 intern class. Be sure to follow him on Twitter at @scottraum!