During the 2016 presidential campaign, it was nearly impossible to avoid hearing about the Trump and Clinton campaigns on social media. This, however, should come as no surprise, said Jennifer Stromer-Galley, a Syracuse University School of Information Studies professor who came to BYU recently to speak on this topic. Her presentation, sponsored by our Office of Civic Engagement, touched on the history of the internet in presidential campaigns as well as its implications, potential, and impact.
Stromer-Galley is part of a team of researchers who studied the 2016 election through the candidates’ social media use. Their research, titled Illuminating 2016, focuses on analysis of messages posted by Trump and Clinton to Facebook and Twitter during the campaign. After gathering the tweets and posts, Stromer-Galley and her team organized the messages into categories that included the following kinds of material:
- Call to Action
- Conversational (Twitter only)
- Issue- policy
- Image- character, personality, ect
- Not in English
The researchers found that Twitter was used more for attacking and Facebook was primarily geared towards advocating. Furthermore, Clinton was the most active overall on each of the sites with a total of 8,714 messages. Trump only tweeted or posted 6,134 times. The graphic below shows that Clinton shared more attack-type posts and calls to action while Trump was more active in voicing information and conversational pieces.
“Overall,” said Stromer-Galley, “Clinton attacked at nearly twice the rate of Trump during the primaries and general election.” In the news media, he was portrayed as loud, rude, and thoughtless. But in reality, his opponent attacked more. Furthermore, the ways that they attacked were different. Trump was blunt and insulting whereas Clinton was more subtle with her jibes.
“We think Trump is the Twitter king,” she pointed out, “but Clinton more heavily using it in last months of general election.” From this, we can clearly see that the 2016 election was not as black and white as people made it out to be. This raises the question: How did social media influence did the election? Did the amount of messages play a role in the outcome? How will candidates use social media in the next election?
Did social media influence the way you voted?
Tables courtesy of Jennifer Stromer-Galley and Illuminating 2016.