Political Scientist: Social Media Is Key

11:34 PM, Jan 4, 2012   |    comments
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Greensboro, NC -- Social media is already playing a huge role on the presidential campaign trail.

Four years ago, President Obama made waves when he announced his candidacy on the internet. But according to Dr. Mileah Kromer, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Elon University, for candidates now, having a Web site or a Facebook page isn't enough.

"For the same reason people love celebrity gossip, it's the same reason people love to follow candidates on Twitter. They want to know what makes people tick," said Kromer.

Kromer said people are interested in candidates as individuals, not just what they have to say when they're in the spotlight as a candidate.

Kromer said Governor Rick Perry's tweet Wednesday morning was a prime example. Perry tweeted pictures of himself after a jog. The Rick Perry hashtag immediately started trending, which means people were talking about him.

According to Kromer, Perry's followers said he cleared his head on the jog and decided he's still in the race.

"It encourages us to know things that really shouldn't matter. Rick Perry's morning jog shouldn't really matter to me," she said.

While exposure is often a good thing for a candidate, it doesn't necessarily mean they're going to end up on top.

"It would be nice for Huntsman if he were as popular in the polls, as his daughters are in the world of Twitter," said Kromer.

But more exposure does mean candidates have to be more careful about what they say.

"These little quick snippets and these little quick comments seem to live forever. So, one mis-step or one poor comment can follow a candidate around for the entirety of their campaign," Kromer said.

Status updates on Facebook work the same way.

"All these interesting day-to-day activities of the candidates do help us paint a picture, but at the end of the day, I'm not so sure how important they should be in our vote determinants," she said.

Kromer said, while social media may not exactly be educating voters, it's certainly engaging them, which will likely translate into more people turning out at the polls.

WFMY News 2

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