Social Opinion, Social Media and Elections

Social media is a strong force in collectivising popular opinions; sometimes hitting hard during election.

The world’s most powerful democracy is gearing up for its presidential election with much fanfare and hits and misses of allegations on the two candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. While social media is a large public media space than mainstream media, it is often on its own trajectory to throw opinions and discuss allegations on electoral candidates. Exemplary data can be found from the Indian elections. India is and perhaps will always be, much susceptible to social media (influence), especially during elections, evidently observed in Delhi selecting Kejriwal and the 2014 national elections selecting Modi as the Prime Minister. Delhi election is seen as the best example of engagement and persuasion used through social media to win votes. The national election campaign, opinions, and perceptibility were immersed in social media, thanks to its proponents who used social media to spread agendas and escalate the popularity. Conceivably, Modi can be said to have won the throne with a significant contribution of social media, emanating from their own party initiatives.

Social media is fast, cost effective, and provides the best means of farthest outreach. As more number of people are glued to smartphones and internet, politicians use every medium to reach out. During elections, social media is used in persuading voters, engaging in healthy discussion about national and local issues; after elections, it is used in retaining voter trust, engaging to resolve grievance, delivering justice and spreading awareness. Much of persuasion, awareness, knowledge sharing, and updates of political decisions circulate largely on social media in India.

Social media has been sufficiently exploited for political empowerment for several years; however, some far-reaching results have been vividly witnessed this time. Trump’s troop of 7 million followers who may be one of the several reasons for his fame and support, is something to start with. Social media is affecting the US elections every day as the candidates’ opinions become public. But, how much is too much? Not surprisingly, too much news and information on social media is detrimental to the idea of making a decision, especially among the youth who remain indecisive. Hence a low turnout on voting day. Uneducated voters relying on false news and propaganda fail to make a worthy decision during elections, eventually pulling the contributory aspect of social media to a level which has no bottom.

Is social media making voters inimical to political agenda?  Just as it helps in quick outreach through immediate sharing, but the sharing also has a deep downside for spreading falsely articulated news. Recent FBI investigations on Clinton has surprised some of her supporters who are pushed in an ethical dilemma. False news is difficult to disprove, and voters’ minds become hard to change. Elections this time are close, and one substantial reason may be social media.

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