New Media and the Presidential Elections of 2008 and 2012

President Obama and Presidential Candidate Governor Romney cut outs of them in the School of International Service at American University.During the 2008 election, Dr. Derrick L. Cogburn and PhD Candidate Fatima Espinoza-Vasquez asserted that Web 2.0 and social media allowed the Obama campaign to operate effectively as a virtual organization, played a pivotal role in introducing Obama early and often in the campaign, and helped garner support for policy issues like healthcare and an economic stimulus package. But what role has the Web and social media play in the 2012 election?

In the article, From Networked Nominee to Networked Nation: Examining the Impact of Web 2.0 and Social Media on Political Participation and Civic Engagement in the 2008 Obama Campaign, authors Cogburn and Espinoza-Vasquez claim that new media tools created a “coherent nationwide virtual organization, which motivated 3.1 million individual contributors to contribute significant amounts of money and mobilize a grassroots movement.”

This notion may be even more true of the 2012 election as we have already seen a tremendous mobilization of the voting public as well as a considerable increase in fundraising monies. Could this signify more effective use of Web 2.0 and social media in this year’s election?

According to CNN Money, the 2012 campaigns have set a historical record of $4.2 billion (and counting) in campaign funds; more than $4 million more than the 2008 election. While Dr. Cogburn and Espinoza-Vasquez agree that both republicans and democrats employed the use of new media strategies, they argue that no campaign applied as effective a strategy as the Obama campaign in 2008. In the 2012 election, Republicans used new media tools on a much larger scale than we saw in the 2008 election, but which party used social media more effectively this time around?

Dr. Deen Freelon, COTELCO faculty associate and American University School of Communication assistant professor, offers an analysis of how social media posts resonated with President Obama and Governor Romney’s audiences in his recent blog post What resonated with Obama and Romney’s Facebook Followers? He suggests that there were key differences in social media content posted by both candidates. The ‘most-liked’ posts for President Obama sent wholesome messages and reminded constituents of traditional American ideals, while Governor Romney’s ‘most-liked’ posts were direct calls for “likes” and often seemed more goal-oriented.

What are your thoughts on these questions? Leave a comment in the comments section below!

Click here to read Dr. Coburn and Ms. Espinoza-Vasquez’s journal article.