Computers and mobile devices are transforming the speed and means by
which voters get information about candidates. Social media sites like
Twitter and Facebook are steadily replacing traditional sources as the
delivery method of choice for a generation of new voters.
As she gears up for this year’s election, Center College student Kelly
Bolton, who's on the campus of the vice presidential debate, is getting
political updates not from television or traditional news sources, but
instantly, through her phone.
“You know what’s happening, when it’s happening. And that’s exciting in
a political season because you want to know where the polls are
standing, or if Romney said something or Obama said something,” Bolton
The information is delivered to her phone through social media sites
like Facebook and Twitter, which have grown in popularity as more
Americans own mobile devices.
During the first debate between President Barack Obama and Republican
challenger Mitt Romney, the Pew Research Center says one in ten
Americans watched the debate while also following news about it on their
computers or mobile devices.
“We gathered around a television and watched it. But everybody had their
phones out too because if Mitt Romney said something, and we Republicans
liked it, we wanted to Tweet that,” Bolton said.
“Twitter has completely exploded the size of the conversation around the
election.” said Twitter’s Adam Sharp. He says traffic on the social
media site jumps from about 1000 tweets to over one hundred thousand
tweets per minute during the debates.
By graphing the traffic on Twitter, he can paint a picture of how the
debates are playing to the American public, instantly.
“A generation or two ago, we may have waited until the next morning’s
paper, to find out what happened this morning on the campaign trail.
Today we are able to follow what happens, as it happens, on Twitter and
get closer to the candidates and events in real time,” Sharp said.
Hansen is seventy years old and retired. He's watched every debate since
1960. He still prefers to get his information from a newspaper, and
doesn’t plan to get a Twitter account. “If you want to talk to me, call
me up. I’ll be glad to talk to you but I don’t like to text or do any of
that,” Hansen said,
That’s a sentiment Kenyon Cook, a student, can understand. “I would say
it’s a lot easier for young people to access because they know the
technology,” Cook said.
“If you’d ask my parents, they’d tell you that they have no idea what an
iPhone is, what Twitter is or how to Facebook,” Bolton said.
But that too, is changing. Bolton says her father is setting up a
Facebook account, joining about one billion people on the planet who own
an account, including Mitt Romney, and President Barack Obama. This
election could provide a test on how this way of delivering news will
affect the outcome.