The effects of new communication technologies on election campaigns, and the effectiveness of media-centered campaign strategies more broadly, remain ongoing subjects for debate in political science. This study provides some of the first empirical evidence about the potential impact of social media on the 2012 U.S. presidential elections, by testing the association between "candidate salience" and the candidates' level of engagement in online social media sphere. We define "candidate salience" as the extent to which candidates are discussed online by the public in an election campaign, and have selected the number of mentions presidential candidates receive on the social media site, Twitter, as means of quantifying their salience. This strategy allows us to examine whether social media, which is widely recognized as disruptive in the broader economic and social domains, has the potential to change the traditional dynamics of U.S. election campaigns. We find that while social media does substantially expand the possible modes and methods of election campaigning, high levels of social media activity on the part of presidential candidates have, as of yet, resulted in minimal effects on the amount of public attention they receive online.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Sociology and Political Science
- Library and Information Sciences