Facebook, Twitter and Barack Obama : new media and the 2008 Presidential Election
Thesis (M.P.P.)--Georgetown University, 2010.; Includes bibliographical references.; Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format. Political strategists and analysts have dubbed Barack Obama's 2008 Presidential victory as the "Twitter election," a "triumph of new media in politics," and "the election decided by Facebook. But, does the reality match the rhetoric? This paper examines the role of new media in the 2008 Presidential election, asking the question of whether the consumption of both new media and old media in the 2008 Presidential election have a significant effect on a person's likelihood to engage in the political process by voting, or whether disparities exist by type of media.; Through a quantitative analysis based on data provided by the Pew Center's Internet and American Life project, this study finds that contrary to the popular rhetoric, old media consumption still remains dominant in explaining voting behavior. This study characterizes new media as that which is two-way in communication and has low barriers to entry and virtually zero marginal cost of participating -- as contrasted with old media which remains cost-prohibitively expensive.; After controlling for a number of demographic variables, the paper utilizes a probit regression model on the likelihood of a person voting with independent variables representing both new media and old media consumption patterns and actions. The model shows that, holding all other variables constant, getting most of one's information about the election through old media sources such as television, radio and newspapers has a statistically significant and positive effect on the likelihood of a person voting. Similar new media variables -- including "friending" a candidate on a social networking site and discussing the election on Twitter -- fail to have significant explanatory powers.; The implications for this manifest themselves both in political strategy as well as campaign finance reform laws. On the political strategy side, this paper suggests that campaigns -- contrary to popular discourse -- cannot simply rely upon new media to engage voters. As a corollary, these results show that because the much more expensive old media remains dominant, campaign finance laws need to be reconsidered. By reducing the financial barriers of entry -- which as this paper shows are prohibitively high as a result of the importance of expensive old media -- greater competition will be introduced for elected positions. Through greater competition, a marketplace of ideas is strengthened, resulting in a more efficient -- and ultimately more representative -- government. This paper concludes that in an examination of new media and the 2008 Presidential election, the rhetoric simply does not match the quantitative reality.
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