, , ,

Most of the major presidential candidates now have some sort of a presence on social networking sites, some more than others. A study byBentleyCollegetherefore is trying to determine the effect of online support for the candidates and whether that support will translate into offline votes.Democratic candidates online rank in the following order: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards. On the Republican side, Ron Paul ranks first, followed by Rudy Giuliani. In both cases, the second-place online candidates actually lead in current polls, which suggests candidates’ popularity online is not necessarily translating into actual popularity. However, Obama’s and Paul’s strong online presence may be increasing their popularity beyond what they could have achieved without an online presence.

Another factor in the political mix for the 2008 election is the stronger presence of the 18- to 29-year-old demographic on Facebook—a demographic that generally leans toward the Democratic Party. MySpace represents a wider age demographic than Facebook, making it perhaps a more accurate gauge of the candidates’ actual popularity at the polls.

Moreover, not all social networking profiles are made the same. Some are much more elaborate, whereas others are simple and offer just the information that appears on their candidate Web sites. Regardless of the intensity of their participation, the coming presidential election appears likely to be the first to include Facebook and YouTube.

Discussion Questions:

1. Is the presidential candidate you prefer on Facebook, YouTube, or MySpace the same as the one you would vote for at the poles?

2. Can a candidate’s social networking site affect your decision to vote for him or her?

“Bentley College Political Science Professors Examine Role of Social Networks in 2008 Presidential Campaign,” Bentley College Press Release, July 30, 2007.