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For Immediate Release
April 10, 2013

For more information, contact
David Tyler
(585) 395-2306

Social Media Transforming Political Participation

Scholars Day presentation notes platforms such as Facebook are making it easier for people to be politically active

The growth of social media is leading to a growth in political participation and changing the nature of political interaction, Courtney Michie, ’13, told an audience during Scholars Day at The College at Brockport, State University of New York. Social media is an integral part of our culture now Michie noted. “It’s extremely useful for organizers and activists,” Michie said. Michie noted that research conducted by the MacArthur Research Network on Youth & Participatory Politics found that youth who were highly involved in nonpolitical, interest-driven social media activities were more than five times as likely to engage in participatory politics. Sixty-six percent of social media users have used social media for some form of political activity, according to a survey by Princeton Research Associates, Michie said. That activity can range from raising money or organizing an event for a candidate to sharing an article or an image about a particular political issue.

A dramatic example of social media’s impact on political participation came on March 26, 2013, the day after the Human Rights Campaign released their now famous image of a light red equal symbol on a red background. According to a Facebook analysis, more than 2.7 million people changed their Facebook profile photo that day. That number is 120 percent more than the average number of changes, and even brands such as Oreo and Bud Light were eventually creating and sharing their own version of the image, she said. “My Facebook feed, as many of yours probably were, was flooded by this image.” Michie said. Michie conducted her own online research for her class WMS 411 Feminist Research Methods. Facebook was the dominant social media platform in Michie’s survey with Twitter finishing a distant second. With 146 responses so far she found a broad variety of reasons for people to be politically active on social media. Respondents cited numerous issues that they promoted online ranging from human rights to healthcare to education to equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. “The majority of people were equally comfortable sharing political opinion both in person and online,” she said. Michie said she’s hoping to conduct additional research on the topic to get a more comprehensive picture of social media use.

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