Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Presidential Campaign Issues: Real Life Vs. Social Media

The economy, taxes, education, health care, immigration, foreign policy, China, Iran, the military. 

These are the big campaign issues for Tuesday's presidential election. But what about the world of social media? Do people care about different things? Yes.

Turns out the simple act of using social networks impacts people's views and involvement in the issue, too. The Pew Research Center reports 25% of social media participants who read about political issues online become more active, and 16% change their view after reading about it online. 

So what are the top issues on social media? 

According to analysis of more than 1.7 million social media posts by the marketing company Vocus, the top campaign issues discussed online are:

1. Taxes

2. Education

3. Budget

4. Health Care

5. Economy

6. Abortion

Results were derived from sentiment-analysis software that tracked the tone of tweets and posts to determine what people are feeling. 

It's important to note that foreign policy issues aren't that important on social networks. According to Vocus' data, China didn't even crack the top 20. 

Vocus claims that while traditional media captures the issues that are most important to the masses, social media takes a more accurate pulse on what people online care about. That might not be wrong. Based on the above data, the important issues skew to more personal topics like money, learning and health. And because of social media's inherent "Me! Me! Look at me!" nature, this makes sense. 

Meme Value 

One way these political ideas are spreading is memes, arguably the most dominant online cultural phenomenon of our time, and the vehicle for countless discussions.

Big Bird, binders full of women, bayonets and horses, and now, what some are calling the best photo of Obama ever, the meme is an issue itself. And a way to spread an idea like wildfire. Snarky and quirky, yes, but no one can deny its viral value is an important way potential voters learn about issues online. Just measuring the awareness people have of a meme can inform us about which issues are of greatest value. 


Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

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