Women in office: how does social media affect campaigns?

Illustration by Rebecca Kottke

Illustration by Rebecca Kottke

Social media has been a huge determining factor in the outcomes of recent elections, specifically those involving women.

During the 2016 election, social media was an advantageous aspect of candidate’s campaigns, as opposed to previous elections, before social platforms were widely used.

Generally speaking, the use of social media during a campaign both helps and hinders female candidates. They can use it to get their name into the homes of constituents, run positive ads about themselves, and interact with the public through social platforms like Twitter and Instagram; on the other hand, their opponents may have large exposure through social media as well, and use it to run negative ads and undermine the campaign of the female candidate.

According to a Forbes article about the impact of social media on women’s campaigns, “since the November 2016 election, there’s been an incredible surge in women raising their hands to run, and much of this momentum is building online.” This is due largely in part to the expansion of social media and its wide usage throughout the world.

Today, If you want to reach your audience fast, you take to social platforms. Information travels instantly versus having to wait for an article to be published in the daily paper.  

The use of social media has generally been accepted as a positive influence on a candidate's campaign — younger generations are able to keep up with candidates in their everyday lives through Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. It especially helps when candidates are up to date on current internet culture.

Take, for example, Hillary Clinton’s “vine” video she made in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, while on the presidential campaign trail. It was all over the internet, and teens loved it. On the other side of the spectrum, social media makes it ten times easier for candidates to receive hate mail, threats, etc.

In the 2016 election Donald Trump devoted a good chunk of his time to directing hateful tweets at his opponent, Hillary Clinton. He branded her with names over social media that his followers saw and picked up, like “Crooked Hillary.”

The Huffington Post analyzed a survey from Women in Parliaments that intend to further understandings surrounding the effect of social media on the political campaigns of women. According to the Huffington Post, “almost 50% of the respondents — from every country, background, age, position and party – to this survey have received insulting or threatening comments about women’s ability and/or role.”

The question that remains to be seen is does social media give women somewhat of an advantage over their male counterparts in elections? The answer to this question will become more visible over time as humans develop more with the online world, however some analysis can be found on the subject at this point in time.

The general consensus is that yes, women do have an advantage over men when it comes to social media. People tend to follow women more on social platforms; Hillary Clinton has more than twice the amount of followers on Twitter that her husband Bill has.

Social media has essentially changed the future of elections for good; we can only hope that it will continue to do the same for female candidates. Going forward, increased social media presence for potential candidates is a must; most of the voting population in America has an online presence now, and tapping into that is important in this political and social climate.

If female candidates use their online presence to their advantage, America may see a continued uptick in the amount of women holding government offices.

VoicesClare Cade