In the age of technology and with rapid expansion of social media outside of simply the social realm (entertainment), as it delves into the political realm, it is important to assess the implications that new technologies will have on our democracy. The purpose of this study is to attempt to predict the ramifications of the internet on American politics and the impact it is having on political norms and responsibilities. The norms that are expressly being examined are voter turnout and partisanship. We have seen in recent elections how individual candidates have utilized the internet to further their own campaigns and policy objectives. Indeed, President Barack Obama’s first campaign was hailed for its effective grassroots employment of social media to interact with young voters. This greatly contributed to his victory in the 2008 election over Republican John McCain. Donald Trump employed similar tactics in 2016, notoriously using Twitter to spread his message to his loyal base. President Trump also utilized claims of misinformation from the established political “gate-keepers” (i.e., mainstream media) to further push his narrative, further diminishing the power of established media outlets and propelling more people to alternative online outlets to receive their political information. This study looks at the long-term effects of such use, and how the voters are responding, and will seek to answer three main questions: (1) Are individuals outside of the typical voting elite (highly educated and/or wealthy) utilizing the internet for political purposes? (2) Does campaigning and/or policy projection via the web have any impact on election outcomes, or is it serving as another platform to reach out to an already loyal base? (3) Is the internet breaking down political divides and expanding the politically independent group, or has partisanship increased because of the internet?
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
College of Sciences
School of Politics, Security, and International Affairs
Roderick, Tyler A., "The Effects of the Internet on Political Participation and Polarization" (2022). Honors Undergraduate Theses. 1277.