Social media playing bigger role in election; especially for young voters

By Nini Edwards

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Many students today search for news by reading tweets and Facebook updates.

Social media is impacting this year’s election more now than ever before.

“Certainly (social media) has grown more prominent and people involved in campaigns are aware and are participating more than in the 2008 election,” said David Sands, The Washington Times’ national politics editor.

The University of Chicago released a study in June finding that young people use social media for peer-based participatory politics rather than referencing political elites and institutions.

The study showed that 45 percent of youth reported getting news at least once a week from family and friends via Twitter or Facebook feeds.

This rivals the 49 percent who got news at least once in the past week from newspapers or magazines. Youth believe they would benefit from learning how to judge the credibility of what they find online, according to the study.

This year’s Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., provided stations for people to actively tweet or use Facebook while attending. The event was named the “convention without walls” because of the high level of social media.

Some believe that although many politicians are embracing social media, it can be dangerous.

“There is a degree I worry. As human beings we surround ourselves with people like us. It gives us the space to only listen to people like us,” said Kentuckians for the Commonwealth’s voter empowerment organizer, Dave Newton. “And as always we should challenge ourselves to learn more about candidates.”

“I think (powerful social media) is from people you trust, traditional social media,” Sands said. “If it comes from somebody you have a relationship with and they make a recommendation, that is more powerful than any mass tweet sent out by a candidate.”

Young people, ages 18 to 29, make up 21 percent of the voting eligible population in the U.S., according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, which many believe is enough to have an impact on the 2012 election.

“People, especially young people, get most of their information through social media,” said psychology junior and Kentuckians for the Commonwealth member Tyler Patrick.