Influence and Impact of Social Media in Polity

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1 Influence and Impact of Social Media in Polity *Ms. R. Anandapriya Affiliation: Research Scholar Department of Journalism and Mass Communication Faculty of Science and Humanities SRM University & **Dr. Sridhar Krishnaswami Affiliation: Professor & Head Department of Journalism and Mass Communication Faculty of Science and Humanities SRM University Abstract The active online presence of politicians and involvement of citizens helps democracy by initiating discussions and debates and helping citizens vote for the best candidate. Further this opens the platform to more active democracy, where elected representatives are more accountable to the voters. We have seen social media making businesses more accountable. And the day is not far off when hopefully social media will have the same impact.. Here s a comparison of the two US elections in 2008 and 2012 with Indian elections 2014: Barack Obama vs John Mccain is the equivalent to BJP vs Congress. While Obama pushed the boundaries of political campaigning online, from raising online contributions to active tweeting, his opponent John Mccain was hardly online. This is very similar to the Indian context where several BJP leaders have built a strong presence and following onlinespecially Mr. Narendra Modi. while the Congress has largely stayed away with the exception of Mr. Rahul Gandhi Again in 2012, Obama was up against Mitt Romney. While Romney did spend approximately $ 5 million, Obama spent over $47 million on digital campaign. One of the key components to the Obama s digital campaign was his website barackobama.com -- a social network, where volunteers could sign up, enrol their friends and neighbours and thus increase the width and depth of Obama s digital campaign

2 India s Prime Minister has been using digital media very effectively and so have other leading politicians.this paper seeks to examine the extent to which the Indian elections campaign of 2014 replicated methods used by Mr. Barack Obama during the American Presidential elections? The argument will be made that while the BJP and Narendra Modi have definitely taken a cue from the United States, most leaders of the Congress Party appeared to have stayed away from this phenomenon. Key words: social media, digital age, democracy, cue.. Introduction: Since use of the internet became widespread in the 1990's, individuals use this tool in the political realm of their lives. The web allow individuals to be involved in politics in many ways and turn out to donate to campaigns, allow candidates to organize individuals more effectively. Interestingly, the internet revolution has occurred at the same time that there has also been an explosion in the use of face to face contact in campaigns. Numerous studies have found that such communications are Effective in getting individuals to vote and to listen to new information from candidates. For example, Marc Ambinder wrote in June 2008 The communication revolution under way today involves the internet, of course, and if Barrack Obama eventually wins the presidency, it will be in no small part because he has understood the medium more fully than his opponents do. His speeches play well on YouTube, which allows for more than second sound bites that have characterised the television era. And he recognizes the importance of transparency and consistency at a time when the five - access to everything a politician has ever said is at the fingertips of every voter. Obama has truly set himself apart by his campaign's use of the internet to organise support. No other candidate in this or any other election has ever built a support network like Obama's. The campaign's 8000 web - based affinity groups, 7,50,000 active volunteers and 1,276,000 donors have provided him an enormous financial and organisational advantage in the Democratic primary. The question that will be examined in this article is how the public uses or doesnot use internet in political lives. General social survey, the Pew Internet and American Life Project allow us to gain leverage over several key questions regarding the Internet in the political sphere and to contrast political internet use with internet more broadly

3 Internet and Politics Printing press, radio, television and the internet have provided useful outlets to get their messages out to the citizen. With each advancement, the availability of information has been expanded, making citizens better informed and making the voting process more democratic. Participating in the new technologies is imperative for politicians to stay relevant and remain competitive. The growth of the printing press and newspaper chains have made newspapers a prime resource for media coverage. With higher literacy rates, politicians have the opportunity to gain the attention of a larger audience. Television entered the scene, threatening to change the entire landscape of campaigning. It was believed to be capable of providing information to an even broader audience than the previous technologies and bringing politics to the masses with greater accuracy and even faster speed. The latest wave of technology, the Internet, has given political campaigning a facelift and has dramatically changed how politicians campaign. It has changed campaigning more than the printing press, radio and television combined. American politicians have campaign websites, raise fund online, blog, e- mail citizens and participate in a whole host of other activities all made possible by the internet (Cornfield 2004; Frantzich 2002; Graff 2007). A citizen can visit a candidate's website, review that platforms and then visit an opposing candidate's website and review that platform. Most candidate's website also allow visitors to questions, allowing citizens to communicate with the candidate. Another unique characteristic of the internet, which is something that ra dio and television do not offer, is that citizens can be interactive with one another and deliberative online. All of this can done inexpensively, conveniently and easily on a global scope. It increases the likelihood that citizens will become more engaged and involved but can also increase polarisation. ( Mossenberger, Tolbert & McNeal 2008 ; Klotz 2004 ; Tolbert & McNeal 2003; Kimball and Gross 2006; Altman & Klass 2005). One of the main objective is to move web visitors and subscribers from passivity to activism. By mobilising voters and getting them excited about the campaign, a candidate can create a large volunteer group to work on the campaign advancing its message. remainders of rallies, candidate appearances and invitations help can lead to volunteerism.( Bimber and Davis 2003) In addition to this, online fundraising is a primary motivation of candidates. Internet donors can make a donation that is just as easy as making an ATM transaction and it can be done at any time. (Cornfield 2004) 599

4 Barack Obama pioneered several Innovatives uses of digital technology. With the help of the Internet, he raised US$745 million. He made use of social media platforms such as Facebook and My Space to identify and communicate with supporters around the country. And through Meetup.com, he launched virtual get-together with voters in many different locales simultaneously. NANOCASTING The rise in the twenty first century of social media, mobile technology and geolocation devices that can pinpoint people's specific location enabled the customisation and personalisation of campaign messaging. Using highly targeted as on Facebook, Twitter and Google, candidates can reach down to tiny niches based on dozens of people or even single individuals and seek to influence their voting and campaign behaviour. Research has shown that social media sharing enhances political persuasion. A random analysis of campaign messages sent to 61 million Facebook users during the 2008 elections found that they directly influenced political self-expression, information seeking and real world voting behaviour of millions of people. Furthermore, the messages not only influenced the users who received them but also the users' friends and friends of friends. The effect of social transmission on real - world voting was greater than the direct effect of the messages themselves. Hypotheses and Data There are many claims such as the ones made above -about how individuals use the internet in politics. But how do people actually use the internet in major political campaigns? Data from the 2004, 2006 and 2008 Pew Internet and American life post -election tracking surveys have been used to examine how individuals use the internet in these elections and to determine the impact of political internet use. Internet Access by Individual, by Age, Race and Education Households Someone in Voted in Households with with household can 2008 (Individu internet broadband access the internet als) Total Younger than

5 and older White non -Hispanic alone Black alone Asian alone Hispanic (of any race) Less than high school graduate High school graduate Some college/ associate degree Bachelor's degree/higher Note. Source : US Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, November 2007 and November Internet access:( changes from 2004 through 2008) 1. It is convenient to compare 2004 data to 2008 data, as both years represent presidential election contests, when general elections interest is high. 2. Internet users are more upto date with current politics, whereas noninternet users are less politically active. 3. By 2008, 55% of internet users & 45 % of non users lived in suburb. 4. Full time employment is no longer statistically significant when comparing mean employment of the internet and non internet user groups % of internet users and 54% of non internet users voted for Obama, but only 38 % of internet users and 27 % of non internet users voted for Mc Cain.( 25 percent of survey respondents refused to specify which candidate they voted for. 6. Finally 10 % more internet users claimed to get their political information from websites that share their point of view than from sites

6 Online Political Strategy in India Social media played a vital role in India's 16th general election. According to a report published in April 2013 by the Internet and Mobile Association of India( IAMAI) and the Mumbai based Iris Knowledge Foundation, Facebook users will " wield a tremendous influence" over the results of the polls in 160 of India's 543 constituencies. During the 2004 general election, social media usuage in India was minuscule.today, however Facebook has 93 million users and Twitter has an estimated 33 million accounts in the country. Mr. Modi was the first Indian politician to set up a website and today is on twitter, facebook and google. His main rival, Rahul Gandhi, the congress leader, however doesn't have a website and doesn't use any of the three major social networks. Now no serious politician is seen as being able to avoid social media altogether" remarked former congress minister Shashi Tharoor. Recently he was overtaken by Mr. Modi as the most followed Indian politician on Twitter." It does have a significant reach in certain segments of the population and as far as we're concerned, thats's important enough to pay attention to and clearly the opposition is paying attention to it too," he said. Taking a leaf from US President Barack Obama's campaigns, India's parties are using tools to crunch the insurmountable amounts of information social media generates- what's known as big data analytics. Pin storm, a digital marketing agency used by some of India's biggest companies to monitor what is being discussed online, now has political parties as clients. From its Mumbai office, the agency has been collecting, storing and analysing tens of thousands of political statements from over 100 online platforms daily for the past six months to allow parties to find supporters and tweak their political message. Professor Amit Sheth and a team of researchers at the Ohio Centre of Excellence in Knowledge - enabled computing at Wright State University have also been tracking political sentiment online since July. "With social media data, we can measure sentiments, for example, before a rally, during the rally and post- analysis. It's much more frequent than opinion polls", said Mr. Sheth. Facebook has 93 million users in India. There are more mobile phones in India today than toilets, according to the latest census data and just over half of the country's 1.2 billion population own one. "Mobile is very integral to our strategy", said Arvind Gupta, who heads the BJP's IT and social media cell. One of the BJP's most unique electioneering tools allows potential voters 602

7 to listen in on Mr. Modi's rally speeches in real time on their phones from anywhere in India. "It's our own innovation", said Mr. Gupta. The number of smartphone users is growing in India and it's how most of the country's web users go online. That's why whatsapp, recently purchased by Facebook, is being used by the BJP and Congress to send photos, videos and messages to potential voters. "No other medium gives as much mass simultaneous reach as mobile phones in India today", said Milind Pathak from one97 communications, a Delhi- based mobile marketing firm. Facebook, for instance, states that Modi's fan base grew by percent, during the elections. Also according to Facebook, between the day the elections were announced and the counting day, 29 million people made 227 million poll - related interactions( posts, comments, shares and likes), with 13 million people on Facebook posting, 75 million updates related to Narendra Modi. Vikas Pande, a media advisor for BJP says" In fact even with two of the top YouTube channels, 'Narendra Modi' and ' I support Narendra Modi' there has been a hike in the number of subscribers, the rise is anywhere in between percent. He also mentions that social media played an important role in reaching out to people even in tier two and tier three cities. Rishi Jaitly, Twitter India Market Director says, Similarly to the Obama campaign, everyone knew that the loksabha election would also be influenced by social media, particularly with over150 million first time voters between the age of years. Conclusion Social media literacy is becoming a sign of forward- looking and development oriented leaders, ready to take up new challenges' in a globalised world and in India. No doubt the educated population that makes us of the internet for online activities in India is less when compared with the uneducated segment of the population, but due to increasing technology and the smart phone culture spreading in rural areas, the population as a whole can bring about a revolution of sorts through social media if utilised properly. The last general elections clearly illustrated the extent of voters involvement in the political process through social media. The 2014 verdict and the process leading to it has shown that apathy of the young towards elections, leading political parties playing vote- bank, divisive politics and political leaders becoming smug and self serving on assuming power is a thing of post. Today, the young educated Indians backed by technology are highly ambitious, optimistic and wish to participate in the electoral process which in turn has impacted the elections scene and map of India. In many ways social media is also leaving a mark on 603

8 governance. Social media has triggered a new revolution in the political campaigns and electoral process and in addition tuning up participation, transparency and accountability through debate and discussion. If Social media had the power to influence the outcome of the 2014 elections in India there is no question that this success story is going to be same, if not more intensive in the next general elections or for that matter in legislative elections in individual states

9 References: Social Media and Regime Change" guides-main.php Released March 2012 Marc Ambinder" Successful Revolution Takes More than Social Media" General Social survey; Pew Internet Research ; American Life Project; Cornfield 2004 "The Future of Cyber Activism" ; Frantzich 2002 "Political Change in the Digital Age; Graff 2007 " The Fragility and Promise of Online Organizing" Tolbert "Successful Revolution Takes More than Social Media" ; Mc Neal, Kimball and Grass " Social Media Uprisings and the Future of Cyber Activism"; Klotz "News around the World" ; Altman and Klass 2005 " Communication Research " ; Bimber and Davis 2005 "The Virtuous Journalist" Web Reference:

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