Tweets, Likes, Votes Key to White House

The explosion of Twitter and Facebook has changed the way the world communicates, especially in America. In the coming weeks, Americans will make an important decision that virtually everyone will be talking about, and millions will be using social media sites to share their thoughts.
Twitter is prepared for what they call the “Twitter Election.” In August, they launched the Twitter Political Index, a service that measures people’s feelings toward the candidates based on what they tweet. The index assigns Barack Obama and Mitt Romney their Twitter Political Index number each day. This number represents how positively the public perceives them compared to all other Twitter accounts, similar to an approval rating. This service is a great way to collect the vast amount of data tweeted every second, but is this an accurate tool?
Twitter says this service is not meant to replace traditional polling methods, but they point out that their data correlate closely with approval ratings from Gallup. But do users of Twitter accurately reflect the people who will vote in November? How many of these tweets are made by people who are too young to vote or are not registered voters?
Although Twitter and Facebook were around during the 2008 election, both candidates have made social media a top priority in each of their campaigns. Type either name into Google and right below their personal websites and Wikipedia entries are their Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. It will be impossible to judge which candidate had a better social media strategy until the results of the election are in, but it looks like Obama has a huge social media advantage. As of Sept. 16, Obama reported 19.8 million followers and Romney 1.1 million. On Facebook, about 28 million people like Obama, while only 7 million like Romney. The key for both Obama and Romney is to turn these followers into voters in November.
The interesting thing to note in the upcoming months is if awareness can turn into action in the form of voter turnout. Social media is popular with the youth of our nation and in the Internet age, information about the candidates flows freely. Census information shows that voter turnout has increased for 18- to 24-year-olds in the past three presidential elections. If this really is the “Twitter Election,” will the young adults of America make sure their opinions are not only heard but also counted?

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