This election cycle, the Obama campaign has taken advantage of social media to a much greater extent than Romney, a new study shows. However, neither campaign regularly interacts with its users, choosing instead to use social media sites to actively push out its message.
"The Obama campaign posted nearly four times as much content as the Romney campaign and was active on nearly twice as many platforms," a Wednesday press release from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) stated.
However, "neither campaign made much use of the social aspect of social media," the release added. "Rarely did either candidate reply to, comment on, or 'retweet' something from a citizen-or anyone else outside the campaign."
A candidate's use and comfort level with the media has been an increasingly important factor in presidential elections since President Franklin Delano Roosevelt began his fireside chats over a half-century ago.
Since 2000, the PEJ has looked at candidate websites and coverage on prominent Internet news sites such as Washington Post and Salon. However, this year is the first time the PEJ included a detailed analysis of the content posted on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
Overall, Obama was much more highly cited on all three interfaces, with nearly twice as many "likes" on Facebook and over twice as many views/likes/comments on YouTube videos. He also bested Romney on Twitter by 18-fold - the president could boast over 150,000 retweets while Romney only had around 8,000.
Both candidates have focused their social media message on the economy, with Romney honing in almost exclusively on jobs while the president also addresses middle class economic security and the choice between the two candidates' platforms.
A focus on foreign policy, defense and tech issues has also suffered at the hand of this topic, the study showed, with many of the important issues from four years ago supplanted by discussions of the economy.
"Gone from four years ago are web pages focused on veterans, agriculture, ethics, Iraq and technology. New are pages about tax policy-and the two campaigns overlap on fewer issues than Obama and McCain did," the Pew release said.
However, retweets and comments have shown the economy is not the issue that gets the most attention on social media sites. Instead, Obama's posts on immigration, women's and veterans' issues received much more attention.
For Romney, veterans' affairs and health care also received nearly twice as much attention on social media than his economic message.
Overall, the study found "voters are playing an increasingly large role in helping to communicate campaign messages," while the traditional news media has become less of an important authority.
The PEJ study took place over the course of 14 days. During this time, researchers looked at both the content and popularity of the candidates on social media platforms as well as the more "static" content offered on campaign websites. An audit of 14 variables across Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were performed twice to look for changes.
by RTT Staff Writer
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