When it comes to making a change, it is best if you listen to all perspectives because you never know the outcome of your decision. For years traditional media has been in charge of getting all messages out there with their influence over what we view newspapers, radio and television. But ever since social media has become a huge factor in our culture, it’s made its own way into how we view and access politics. This gives not only the candidates their wide reach but also builds their audience and helps them to understand what they need to do to win.
As the 2024 U.S. elections draw near, the public’s attention is fixated on who will win and which ideas will lead to their victory. In a world dominated by media and data, the question arises: can these trends accurately predict election results? With the vast amounts of information at our fingertips, from social media activity to public opinion polls, it seems logical that we could use this data to forecast the outcomes of elections. But how reliable are these predictions and what other factors play a role in determining electoral success? Together we will explore the intersection of media trends and data in predicting election results and delve into the limitations and opportunities that arise from our reliance upon these tools.
What are the media trends and election predictions?
Social media has emerged as a powerful tool for predicting election results, as it provides real-time information about how people are feeling about a particular candidate or issue. Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook allow users to express their opinions and share news stories, providing valuable insights into public sentiment. Political analysts can use this data to make more accurate predictions about the election outcomes. In the article The Effects of Social Media on Elections: Evidence from the United States, Thomas Fujiwara, Karsten Miller and Carlo Schwarz explain the impact social media had on Trump’s race for President.
Social media apps. Photo by dole777 on Unsplash
“Much of the recent public discussion about the role of social media platforms has been shaped by controversies, including the consulting firm Cambridge Analytica’s involvement in multiple political campaigns (e.g., The Guardian, 2018); the Russian Internet Research Agency’s efforts to support Trump’s election campaign (e.g., New York Times, 2017); and the role of widely shared false information (“fake news”) in both the 2016 U.S. elections (e.g., Allcott and Gentzkow, 2017) and the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom (e.g., UK Parliament, 2019). Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have argued that these factors were instrumental in the 2016 election outcome, as has former president Barack Obama (The New Yorker, 2016). As Brad Parscale, Trump’s digital media director in 2016, put it: “Facebook and Twitter were the reason we won this thing. Twitter for Mr. Trump. And Facebook for fundraising” (Wired, 2016). In Appendix Figure A.3, we document that discussions of social media have become increasingly frequent in major American news outlets. Mentions of Twitter in particular spiked with the 2016 presidential election when compared to 2012 levels.”
Even though the internet cannot always be dependable when it comes to facts, what we can say about it is that it has a huge impact on building a community. Social media is good at helping public figures find their core audience. Just look at Trump for example, even with no experience in politics, he successfully used these platforms to get people’s attention. The man knows how to properly market himself on social media and that is very important if you want to obtain a particular role. At the end of the day,many people think like him. In order for Trump to get those people’s vote, he had to use a strategy on social media to draw them to his side. He needed a strong foundation to win and the internet helped him do that.
Then-President-elect Donald Trump. Photo by Library of Congress on Unsplash
Trump is not the only one going to the internet to get answers on how to get attention for his campaign. Plenty of political figures are going to sites like Google and others just to see what topic is the most popular just so they can use it for their campaign. By analyzing search traffic results for specific keywords related to the election, analysts can gain insights into what issues are most important to voters.
This information can help political campaigns make strategic decisions on how to appeal to voters. Data analysis has already become a critical component of political forecasting, as it allows analysts to identify trends and patterns in voter behavior. They want to know what is really important to the public before marketing themselves to the people and catering to their needs.
Sometimes the political party goes into past elections for answers as well. They want to see what people usually go for and what past presidents used that worked for them. That’s why they analyze election data so that political analysts can develop more accurate models for predicting future election outcomes.
Despite the increasing importance of media trends and data analysis in predicting election results, it is important to note that these tools are not foolproof. While they can provide valuable insights into voting behavior, factors like voter turnout, economic conditions and unforeseen events can still have a significant impact on the outcome of an election.
Understanding the impact of social media in political campaigns
Many other social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or even Google have become critical sources of election data. Through social media analytics, political actors can collect vast amounts of information on voting behaviors, attitudes and demographics. This information can be used to shape strategic messaging, target specific audiences and even predict election outcomes. Data analysis plays a crucial role in politics today. It provides decision-makers with insights into how voters are reacting to certain issues or candidates, helping them adjust their strategies accordingly. In the article, Analyzing Voter Behavior on Social Media During the 2020 US Presidential Election Campaigns, Lori’s Belcastro, Francesco Branda, Riccardo Cantini and Fabrizio Marozzo explain how the data on social media can see the behavior of the main audience.
Voter envelopes and masks with political party colors. Photo by Tiffany Tertipes on Unsplash
“The growing use of social media is generating an amount of information-rich data never seen before. This data, commonly referred to as Big Social Data, can be effectively leveraged by a wide range of techniques aimed at modeling the interactions of users on social media, their collective sentiment and behavior, the dynamics of public opinion, and the patterns of information production (Pang and Lee 2008; Cesario et al. 2016; Marozzo and Bessi 2018; Cantini et al. 2022). All the knowledge extracted through such techniques allows us to outline a precise profile of social users, by describing them from a behavioral and psychological viewpoint, and by modeling their perception of events and public decisions.”
However, despite the wealth of data available, predicting election results remains exceedingly difficult. Predictive models rely on historical data, and while this data can be useful, it is imperfect. Especially in an era of heightened political polarization and social media echo chambers, traditional methods of prediction may not work well. Nonetheless, media trends and data analysis will continue to be essential in understanding the role of social media in political campaigns and elections. In the article the past decade and future of political media: the ascendance of social media by Diane Owen talks about the impact social media has had.
“Growing numbers of people are using social media to engage in discussions and share messages within their social networks (Owen, 2017b). Effective use of social media has contributed to the success of social movements and political protests by promoting unifying messages and facilitating logistics (Jost et al., 2018).”
Harnessing big data for electoral analysis
By analyzing search traffic and search results, political forecasters can gain insights into voting behavior and preferences, helping them to predict election results with greater accuracy. Social media also plays a key role in election analysis, with the use of sentiment analysis and other tools enabling researchers to track public opinion in real-time. Data analysis techniques can be used to identify and respond to media trends, enabling politicians and campaigners to adjust their messaging accordingly. This can help to increase engagement and boost support, ultimately leading to greater voter turnout and more accurate election predictions. In the article, How Using Search Engines Impact Voter Decision, Christina Sukhgian Houle speaks about the importance of search engines and how they impact the political world.
Data analysis. Photo by Justin Morgan on Unsplash
“It is important to examine the power of SEME on voter outcome and especially to consider how its manipulation can be masked from the viewer and obscured from regulators. And, when search engines favor certain results over others, the results ‘might interact synergistically with the process by which voter preferences affect search rankings, thus creating a sort of digital bandwagon effect, Since many people use search engines provided by a singular corporate entity, those companies hold large amounts of unregulated power that could determine election outcomes, especially as more voters turn to the Internet as their sole provider of news and current events.”
The limits and challenges of media predictions models
One of the primary limitations is the fact that media trends and data are just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to predicting election results. While they can give us an indication of how voters might be feeling about a particular candidate or issue, there are many other factors that can come into play on election day. Election results can depend on the situation the individual person is in at the moment, and if the running mate is actually looking out for their best interest. However, if a candidate is a part of someone’s religion, class, or gender, voters tend to lean more into those causes and choose the candidate who they view is more perfect for the role.
Another challenge is the fact that the media landscape is constantly evolving. As new platforms emerge and existing ones evolve, it can be difficult to keep up with the latest trends and data. This can lead to inaccuracies or biases in the model, particularly if it relies too heavily on outdated or incomplete information. Another reason why there is limitation is because some voters who do not use social media find it quite exhausting arguing back and forth with someone online.
According to the Pew research center, 55% of adult social media users are worn out by not only the political posts they come across but also encounter. Since people become so passionate about politics, it can become very difficult for both of them to see eye to eye. This can influence them to not participate at all. Despite these challenges, media prediction models still have a role to play in political forecasting.
By leveraging the latest data and trends, anyone can provide valuable insights into voting behavior and help guide campaign strategies. However, it’s important to bear in mind that they are just one tool in a much broader arsenal of political analysis and need to be used in conjunction with other approaches to get a more accurate picture of what’s happening.
The role of traditional media in shaping election outcomes
With the emergence of social media and Google Trends, political forecasting has become more accessible than ever before. Social media platforms have become a central hub for political discussions and have the potential to sway voting behavior.
Google Trends, on the other hand, provides insight into search traffic and search results surrounding political candidates and issues. In the article How Political Campaigns Use the Data, Elizabeth Culliford speaks on how campaigns on social media play a part.
“On Facebook, campaigns can upload a list of people they want to target using details like names or phone numbers. They will be told how many of those on the list saw the ad, but not who they are. They can also target people similar to their list. “
Data analysis plays an essential role in predicting election outcomes. By analyzing previous voting patterns, demographics and polling data, political analysts can make educated predictions about the general public’s voting behavior. These platforms help them understand if the message in the ad is effective and who connects to it the most. Analysts and politicians can get a feel of what topics the audience cares most about the most.
Data Analysis. Photo by Firmbee.com on Unsplash
With access to that information, the political candidate can rearrange his or her focus in the direction that the ad is telling them, in order to focus on their end goal. For a person to become interested in a political figure, they have to find a brand that properly represents themselves. Every political candidate has to talk a good game in order to get their target’s eyes landed on them. The only thing they will have to face is actually backing up their word.
In conclusion, media trends and data analysis can provide valuable insights into the potential outcomes of an election. However, it is important to approach these insights with caution and consider other factors that may influence the results.
Ultimately, the election outcome is determined by the choices of individual voters and cannot be predicted with absolute certainty. Therefore, media trends and data analysis should be used as a tool to inform voters and facilitate a better understanding of what may happen, rather than as an accurate predictor of election results.
Featured Image: Photo by Luke Chesser on Unsplash
Edited by: Abbigail Earl
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