Social media – and ads – reaching new voters

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by Joey Khalil

With less than a month until the presidential election, both candidates and their respective super PACS will undoubtedly be flooding the airwaves, TV screens, and Internet banners with last minute campaign ads. Many student voters whose candidate choice still remains in the balance, however, might not be swayed by traditional means of political advertising.

Both the MSU College Democrats and the MSU College Republicans have done a fair amount of campaigning for their respective candidate themselves. Andrea Bommarito, a representative of the MSU College Republicans, believes that attack ads sponsored by either the candidate or an independent group supporting the candidate, are not always the most effective way to reach voters who, she says, often feel bombarded.

“I think to a point advertising can be effective,” said Bommarito, “many people frown upon, and have issues with [things like] receiving literature in their mail because it comes so heavily this time of year.”

Bommarito believes that as of late, the most effective means of getting voters’ attention has been the presidential debate itself.

“Debate performance really impacts the independent voters. Even after one debate numbers have shifted favorably for Romney,” said Bommarito.

She says the debate forum allows for candidates to speak directly to the American people on each of the most important issues, which give voters the opportunity to make a legitimate side-by-side comparison of the two candidates.

“People want to hear from the candidates,” Bommarito said, “and hear how they will add or change policies. Not everyone will get a chance to go to a rally or speech, so the nationally televised debate is really the best chance for the candidates to express themselves and show America who they are and what they will do. “

While Bommarito said that college campaigning is changing, the old fashioned door-to-door, in-person campaigning strategy can make a big impact on voters.

“Having a down to earth conversation with someone can really help to open their eyes and see some new perspectives,” Bommarito said, ”which is why we stress the importance of going door to door for multiple candidates during an election cycle.”

On the other side of the aisle, Rawley Van Fossen, Vice President of the MSU College Democrats, believes that the best way to reach voters this close to Election Day is through a combination of campaign advertising tactics.

“I believe independent voters are a more well- rounded voter. There isn’t necessarily one criteria that determines how they will vote. It truly is a combination of everything- debates, ads, policy, etc.,” said Van Fossen.

Bommarito and Fossen both acknowledge that campaigning has fundamentally changed. Now, to reach younger voters there is more focus on social media outlets and establishing an online presence for their respective candidate.

“Campaign advertising allows candidates to reach a whole new level of voter contact. It will soon no longer just be a matter of how many doors you knock on, but also how many people on Facebook you can reach,” said Fossen.

Bommarito says the College Republican campaigners think in much the same way.

“How many times do you check Facebook, twitter or YouTube? For our generation this has become a means to an end so to speak,” she said, “candidates need to utilize social media even more in my opinion to reach youth.”

Fossen believes this trend will continue, and will only become more prevalent in the campaign cycles and elections of the near future.

“Our generation is continuously relying more and more on technology. Like I said before, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have already evolved into playing a huge role in this year’s election cycle,” Fossen said, “I can imagine how it will be down the road.”

Bommarito says the College Republicans’ main goal is to spread awareness, and though the overflow of political ads may bombard students, she says they go a long way in enfranchising young people to vote.

“Even now, you will notice that before every YouTube video, a short advertisement is played and several of the ones that I have seen are politically based. I am sure students may get tired of this, but it reminds them that it is their right and privilege to vote,” Bommarito said.

Regardless of effectiveness, both campaigns, as well as independent campaign groups and Super PACS, have raised and spent hundreds of millions of dollars to reach voters. According to the Federal Election Committee, as of August 31st both spent a combined $585 million. That figure doesn’t count the Democratic or Republican parties or the Super PACs money.

When all the private donors, Super PACS, party funding, and each campaign’s spending was added together, the final numbers were an eye-popping $615.6 million spent for Barack Obama, and $530.7 million spent for Mitt Romney.

With only a few weeks left until Election Day, the general public may see a last minute push from both candidates in advertisement spending.

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