Social Science Computer Review

Volume 31, No. 5

October 2013


“Symposium: The Internet and Campaign 2012: Developments & Trends”

Jody Baumgartner, East Carolina University, Guest Editor


            The Internet and Campaign 2012: Developments & Trends / Jody Baumgartner

Abstract: Introduction to the symposium issue on “The Internet and Campaign 2012: Development and Trends”

All Political Participation is Socially Networked?: New Media and the 2012 Election

Terri L. Towner

Abstract: This research examined the influence of attention to specific forms of traditional and online media on young adults’ online and offline political participation as well as voter turnout during the fall 2012 presidential campaign. A three-wave panel survey demonstrated that attention to traditional media did not increase offline and online political participation in September; instead, participation was heightened by attention to online sources, particularly presidential candidate websites, Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. In the following months, individual-level change in participation was attributable to attention to several online media sources as well as change in media attention. In the case of voter turnout, results suggest that television attention was positively linked to voter likelihood in September but was negatively linked to individual-level change in voter turnout in November.


Two Sides of the Coin: Assessing the Influence of Social Network Site Use During the 2012 US Presidential Campaign

Weiwu Zhang, Trent Seltzer, and Shannon L. Bichard

Abstract: This The increasing popularity of social network sites (SNSs) in election campaigns provides a unique climate for scholarly inquiry. The study reported here builds upon Zhang, et al. (2010) and investigates the impact of different types of SNS use on voters’ attitudes and behavior during the 2012 US presidential campaign. Sites such as Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, and YouTube are included to offer a robust assessment of distinct relationships. A national online panel of Internet users was utilized to examine reliance on SNSs and the multiple consequences on political attitudes and behavior such as political participation, political interest, selective exposure, selective avoidance, and strength of party affiliation. The findings are evaluated for theoretical and practical implications on democratic governance.


Live-Tweeting a Presidential Primary Debate: Exploring New Political Conversations

Joshua Hawthorne, S. Brian Houston, Mitchell McKinley

Abstract: This Twitter offers a function, called live-tweeting, that allows users to communicate about events with each other in real time. This study examines the use of live-tweeting during a 2012 Republican Primary Debate by examining the 181,780 tweets posted during the nationally-televised debate. Deliberative democratic theorists have long argued that traditional media, especially television, foster a passive model of political communication in which citizens are consumers of politics rather than active participants. Live-tweeting offers users an opportunity to engage in politics, challenging this passive model. Our study tests whether citizens take this opportunity to assert their own political narrative or if elite users dictate the content of citizen tweets by examining the frames used in the tweets of both groups. Findings show that there were very few differences between the elite and non-elite social media conversations and that elite users views were spread farther than non-elite views.


A 'Sentimental' Election: Emergent Framing and Public Sentiment in Social Media Content during the 2012 US Presidential Campaign

Jacob Groshek, Ahmed Al-Rawi

Abstract: This By being embedded in everyday life, social networking sites (SNSs) have altered the way campaign politics are understood and engaged with by politicians and citizens alike. However the actual content of social media has remained a vast but somewhat amorphous and understudied entity. The study reported here examines public sentiment as it was expressed in just over 1.42 million social media units on Facebook and Twitter to provide broad insights into dominant topics and themes that were prevalent in the 2012 US election campaign online. Key findings include the fact that contrary to what one might expect, neither presidential candidate was framed in an overly critically manner in his opponent’s Facebook space or on Twitter’s dedicated non-partisan election page. Beyond this, similarities and divergences in sentiment across social media spaces are observed that allow for a better understanding of what is being communicated in political social media.


Social Media and Campaign 2012: Developments & Trends for Facebook Adoption

Girish J. "Jeff" Gulati, Christine B. Williams

Abstract: This Diffusion of innovation theory is used to explain adoption of Facebook in the 2012 campaigns for the US Congress and to identify characteristics that differentiate the small subset of candidates who did not create a Facebook presence from the large majority who did. Models of Facebook adoption for House candidates reveal that there are no differences between Republicans and Democrats. Non-adopters are significantly more likely to be challengers or open-seat candidates, poorly financed candidates, candidates in non-competitive races, and older. Among non-incumbents, Republicans and candidates from Republican-oriented districts are more likely to adopt. This study serves as one of the first examinations of social media adoption by congressional candidates in the 2012 elections and discusses relevant developments and trends in adoption since Facebook’s introduction in 2006.


Digital Inequality and Participation in the Political Process: Real or Imagined?

David S. Morris, Jonathan S. Morris

Abstract: This This study analyzes whether greater levels of Internet access closed the participation gap between individuals of lower and higher socioeconomic status (SES) in the early stages of the 2012 presidential campaign. Our analysis of data from the Pew Research Center demonstrates that greater levels of access to the Internet are significantly associated with greater political knowledge and engagement for low SES individuals, but not high SES individuals. We explain our results in the context of incidental learning among the disengaged public during high-profile political events, such as a presidential election.


Internet Political Ads in 2012: Can Humor Mitigate Unintended Effects of Negative Campaigning?

Jody Baumgartner

Abstract: This A post-test only experimental design is used to test the effects of humorous negative video ads from the 2012 presidential campaign on evaluations of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney among young people. Findings show that ads targeting Romney had a negative effect on attitudes toward him. Romney also had his evaluations lowered as the result of respondents viewing third-party ads attacking Obama. This may be consistent with some research that suggests that negative political ads have a “backlash,” or “boomerang” effect on their source. Obama, on the other hand, was largely insulated from both target and source effects. The study suggests first that candidates who decide to “go negative” may not be able to insulate themselves from unintended negative effects by framing their ads in a humorous fashion. Moreover, because the anti-Obama ads were sponsored by a third party, it suggests that the source really might matter in terms of the effects ads have on “their” candidates.


Running on the Web: Online Self-Presentation Strategies in Mixed-Gender Races

Mary Christine Banwart, Kelly L. Winfrey

Abstract: This Online self-presentation strategies are critical for female candidates to develop and deliver effectively. This is because the media appear to cover male and female candidates differently in news coverage, and research-based evidence continues to suggest that voters hold male and female candidates to different standards in mixed-gender races (Banwart & Winfrey, 2009). This study examines how women running in mixed-gender races during the 2012 general election cycle employed self-presentation strategies to present a viable image for election. Candidate websites from U.S. House races featuring a female and male candidate are analyzed for their overall use of feminine vs. masculine styles, as well as style-based issue discussion and image presentation. The results are compared to past research to further highlight relevant changes over time as women continue to construct their candidacies and define their space – and voice – within the political environment.


"Non-symposium Article"


Who Tweets about Politics? Political Participation of Twitter Users during the 2011 Gubernatorial Elections / Marija Anna Bekafigo & Allan McBride

Abstract: Twitter has been lauded for its potential political value by academics, journalists and politicians, yet we know little about the citizenry’s use of Twitter to engage in politics. Under the backdrop of the 2011 gubernatorial elections, we observed Twitter users’ direct engagement in the electoral process by collecting usernames and tweets of anyone who mentioned a candidate. After the elections were called, we employed an original survey via Twitter of these political tweeters to answer the question, who tweets about politics? Unsurprisingly, the results of our logit analysis demonstrate that strong partisans and those exhibiting high levels of traditional political participation activity tweet about politics most often which supports those who argue that we can expect to find the same political activists online as offline. However, we also find evidence that racial minorities and secularists are engaged in the electoral conversation on Twitter suggesting that some marginalized groups may have found a political outlet.