College voters weigh in on how social media impacts their primary vote

The University of South Carolina Social Media Insights Lab measures social media activity across the state

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) —With voters make up their mind ahead of the Democratic primary, some choose their candidate based on what they see at their fingertips.

Several students here at USC say they see social media posts about presidential candidates often on their timelines, and some say seeing those posts makes them think.

“When it comes to people our age, social media is the biggest way we spread information, you’ll see a lot of clips from the Democratic debate, it goes viral, and it could sort of sway a lot of people’s opinions on who to vote for,” said Brendan Lee, a freshman at USC. 

Beyond students at the University of South Carolina, other people jump on Facebook and Twitter to give their thoughts about particular candidates.

Through a software that compiles information based on trillions of social media posts, the Social Media Insights Lab at the University of South Carolina is able to judge voter attitudes across the state on the prospective presidents.

“We’re able to look across social media content platforms and see really not only what people are saying, but how they engage with content, how they engage with news events, how they engage with each other, and what topics make them feel the most,” said Kait Park, the Social Media Insights Lab Manager at the University of South Carolina.

Based on social media insight reports, Vice President Joe Biden ranked behind several candidates in terms of the percentage of positive posts about him online at the end of January.

However, based on his debate performance and his endorsement from House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, researchers say the number of positive posts about Biden has risen.

“What we did see were some candidates who said ‘I was a bit on the fence’ and then they were sharing the fire emoji saying ‘Joe’s on fire tonight’ ‘where has this guy been,'” Park said.

Even with a greater political presence online, some students say they are not trying to let what they see dictate how they vote.

“I think it’s important that yes you might be informed by social media, but most definitely going to other outlets to get a broader perspective on what you should vote for and read about,” said Grace Badaki, a junior at USC.

According to the Social Media Insights Lab, the candidates who were involved in the most social media activity during Tuesday’s debate were Vice President Biden, Senator Bernie Sanders, and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

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