While we’ve seen online influencers for things like food and clothes— could a single social media post change your opinion on something as big as an election?
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — If you were to see a jarring headline about a political opinion that you disagreed with, would you click on it? What if it were one you agreed with? Do you think anything you read could change the way you plan to vote?
You might be shocked to find out that our phones and the apps on them have more of an impact on how we think than you would normally expect.
Political scientist Professor at UALR Rebecca Glazier explained that social media can determine the political issues we care about most.
“[People] may not even have an issue on their agenda, but when a video goes viral, suddenly everyone’s talking about it, and everyone’s thinking about it,” Glazier said.
In Arkansas, there’s one race that impacts everyone– the race for governor.
The three primary candidates all have different experiences online and offline, but they all have the ability to see in real-time how social media can impact their campaign, and ultimately how it can impact the way you vote.
Though she declined an interview, Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Sarah Huckabee Sanders sent us this statement in part:
“With over 2 million followers across multiple social media platforms, I have the ability to take my conservative message of freedom, empowerment, and pushing back against the radical left directly to the people…” Huckabee wrote.
But with a large platform can also come the risk for negative viral posts as well, just maybe without as big an impact at the polls as the digital tally might show.
“People are going to forget about that viral video within a day or two… timing really matters, so when something goes viral, close to an election day, then that could really have an impact on how people vote,” Glazier added.
Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Chris Jones said that he always keeps in mind that a strong digital presence is necessary.
“We are thoughtful about the fact that sound bites, clickbait can lead to misinformation; can lead to misperceptions,” Jones said.
Jones also explained to us how he’s been focusing on more direct conversations with Arkansans.
“Whatever we say and do, I’m thinking about my mother, my grandmother and my three-year-old, my three daughters and other folks to say, does it represent Arkansas well? Does it represent who I am,” described Jones.
The campaigns have been playing out online just as Glazer would expect; not so much changing someone’s mind as solidifying it.
“I think social media can change things at the margins…But party ID is so strong in the US. And in a state like Arkansas, it’s going to be really hard to convince someone who identifies as a Republican to vote Democratic.,” Glazier explained.
Libertarian Gubernatorial Candidate Ricky Harrington expressed that he hopes to stand as a third option between other, more polarized options online and that it will work in his favor.
“I would hope that the people would see someone as willing to take a look at things before they act, a response rather than a reaction,” Harrington said.
He wants his past political campaign experience to help build name recognition.
“…just trying to run an honest campaign and trying to get a good message out there…” Harrington added.
Candidates have just over two months left to make their final mark online and bring voters out to the polls.