c1By Fernando Lopez Duran

Young voters are turning to social media to become informed on candidates and their stances on issues.

“Studies show that traditional-aged college students get their information from a variety of online sources rather than through television news,” said Don Mirjanian, professor of political science at College of Southern Nevada.

According to a poll published February 2016 by Pew Research Center, 35 percent of adults aged 18 to 29 said their most helpful source of information on the presidential election was social media. They used Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

Mirjanian mentioned that although information is easily accessible on the Internet, it can quickly become a problematic one-sided source for students as they tend to visit sites that agree with their own political stances.

“On the one hand, the variety of sources that are available online suggest that students receive well-rounded information,” Mirjanian said. “On the other hand, most people—students included—often tend to stick to outlets that reaffirm their current thinking and they may not even know they are doing so.”

The poll by PRC also analyzed traditional means of communications such as television and newspapers, concluding they do not serve as the primary source of information for young voters. Cable television news was the most popular medium with voters over 30.

Presidential hopefuls remain creative in their voter outreach efforts by choosing social media along with traditional means of advertising. Though candidates are still buying multi-million-dollar ad campaigns on television, they are utilizing social media to access low or cost-free platforms to get their messages across. As an added benefit, they are reaching a younger demographic.

In a tweet from August 2015, the Hillary Clinton campaign asked its followers to send in their feelings on student-loan debt in three emojis or less; an issue likely affecting young voters on Twitter. While some obliged and responded with how they feel, others criticized Clinton for trying too hard to fit in with millennials by downplaying the severity of the issue.

With approximately 7.5 million followers on Twitter, presidential candidate Donald Trump also has a strong social media presence, but his outreach method on Twitter is different than the other candidates. Instead of tailoring messages toward a specific demographic, Trump is known to express his personal opinions on voting outcomes and other issues with loaded and straight-forward language. His Twitter rants are often picked up by main-stream media.

Joaquin Mendoza, student at CSN, said candidates could potentially expand their voter bases by utilizing social media, specifically pointing to the Snapchat app. He compared these efforts to the success of radio host and music producer DJ Khaled, who has become an Internet sensation due to his motivational Snapchat stories meant to inspire his fans.

“It started off as a Snapchat thing, just like a game, but now he’s widely known all around the world,” Mendoza said. He went on to claim that if politicians can market phrases such as “Feel the Bern” for the Bernie Sanders campaign, future public-office bids could catch on even quicker with a younger base.

Not all students feel the same way about this.

Mpologoma Walugembe, CSN student, said that credibility is an issue when candidates attempt to make an impact on social media platforms.

“I feel like they’re not genuine when they use social media because they’re trying to reach out to as many people [as possible],” Walugembe said. “It’s just entertainment pretty much.”

%d bloggers like this: