US Election 2016: How Social Media Influenced the Electorates in Favour of Trump

by November 10, 2016 0 comments

Donald Trump has trumped Hillary Clinton in the Presidential election and is set to be the 45th president of the United States of America.

The presidential election of 2016 has been one of the most controversial election in the annals of the American political history. Social media was one of the key platforms were both the parties engaged with their potential voters to influence their decision. This election and the outcome is very similar to the historic parliamentary election in India when a single party was voted to power and became the only party to receive absolute majority (2/3rd) in the Lower House after over three decades.

Eminent American documentary filmmaker and author Michael Moore had cleverly predicted Trumps victory in one of his blogs. The current election was based on pure rhetoric and Trump knew this. His attention was fixed on the four traditionally Democratic states – Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Also, each of them have elected a Republican governor since 2010 (only Pennsylvania has now finally elected a Democrat). Mr Trump predictably garnered the majority of the white vote, with 58 per cent casting their ballots for the Republican. In the end it was a fractured and discontented electorate that voted Donald Trump to power.

Exit polls had already indicated a deep racial, gender, economic and cultural divides nationally and across the Midwest and Great Lakes region and it was a no brainer that Trump’s soaring popularity rested and thrived on this discontent.

Trump’s campaign team successfully exploited the voters on social media platforms by using methods which were clearly divisive. It reminded me of the Great 2014 election when BJP was voted to power. In this case, the party knew that people were tired of the Congress party and BJP alone was the only alternative available. It was a well-planned strategy and for the first time in the country’s history, social media played an important role in the election and it was India’s first “social media elections.”

The social media effect worked wonders for the BJP. They knew that this platform was an extended version of the campaign trail. It was the youth that became the game changer and the BJP was able to sway them far more effectively than any other party. In the US election, the angry white male with no college degree voted for Trump in large numbers. The President-elect secured a win in spite of offending Muslims, Jews, Asians, just about every immigrant and disabled people (some 15 million voters), explains the power of social media.

Social media acts like an accelerant to conditions which already exist in the country and in Trump’s case, it was about making America great again. It transmitted hope across the entire length and breadth of the country and people bought this fantasy with both hands.

It is generally accepted that people who consume more news media have a greater probability of being civically and politically engaged across a variety of measures. We are living in an era when the public’s time and attention is heavily directed toward social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

“We saw a trend where the youth of the country were embracing social media as their first tool when they started using the internet, and we made sure our presence was there,” said Arvind Gupta, who as head of BJP’s IT division led the party’s social media campaign in 2014.

According to him BJP’s social media campaign was one of the most important factors in its victory. In many constituencies, social media was amongst the top three communication tools, overtaking traditional methods such as advertisements, he added.

Similarly, Trump’s win clearly indicates that the American people don’t care what the mainstream media is saying. The economic decline of traditional media and the entry of the social media platforms has made it possible for rumours and conspiracy theories to circulate on the digital landscape without any check. In the age of digital outrage, Trump turned into mouthpiece for the common man to vent out his frustration.

He dominated online chatter significantly. He was also the most talked-about candidate on Twitter and Facebook. And, while some may argue that the sentiment about Trump was negative, a large section of people supported his outrageous views. People were more concerned about the economy, potential terrorist attacks and immigration and Trump successfully marketed his campaign as some sort of movement to address these core issues.

The power of social media is out in the open for everyone to see and to feel the pulse of the nation, it is the best place to start.

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