As we head into President’s Day weekend, i3 revisits a recent CEA report on how social media has changed presidential politics and election cycles.

“The single most crucial concept, reduced to one word which will be repeated throughout this study, is data,” writes CEA’s Sean Murphy in 5 Technology Trends to Watch 2012.  “It is now a common, uncritically-received talking point that Barack Obama’s [2008] presidential campaign staff embraced, and exploited, social media to help secure victory. The reality is at once simpler and far more complex than this. True, the Obama operation shrewdly incorporated many nascent possibilities of social media to its advantage. On the other hand, this maneuver was initially less a reaction than a necessity, and what is now celebrated as prescient strategy was, at least partially, summoned out of necessity.”

Murphy’s piece explores how presidential and congressional election cycles have been impacted by twitter, Facebook and the 24/7 news cycle. He also unveils the findings of a 2011 CEA survey which found that while 65 percent of U.S. adults say they follow politics on television, and 47 percent say the Internet keeps them informed on political issues, the numbers shift dramatically when broken down by age group. Young adults, Murphy writes, rely more heavily on social media to follow political news, and campaigns are turning to social media, too, recognizing its vast data mining opportunities.
“The use of data in campaigns is not new,” Murphy writes, “but the technology used to gather this information has become much more efficient in recent years. For instance in 2008, Obama’s website asked visitors to sign in before entering, rather than giving them the option to do so at the end of their visit when they might forget. In this rather unobtrusive but remarkably effective way, the campaign captured crucial information about its supporters.

Read the complete study, which includes the future of mobile apps in elections and the use of new interactive formats to connect candidates with constituents here.