Photo by Kyle West
By: Ashlynn Labinaz
The results of the recent McMaster Students Union presidential election were released on Jan. 24, with Josh Marando becoming president-elect. Jeffrey Campana came second in the polls, with Madison Wesley and Justin Lee placing third and fourth respectively.
Given our current state of affairs, these results beg the question: did social media impact the outcome of the MSU election?
The simple answer? Yes. When investigating the social media accounts of the candidates, all four individuals created Facebook and Instagram campaign accounts, posting platform content to build a larger following and campaign support.
When comparing the Instagram accounts of all four candidates, the winning Marando had 618 followers, Campana had 512 followers and Lee had 15 followers. Wesley’s deactivated account could not be used in this comparison.
Overall, there appears to be a clear association between the candidates’ social media presence and their election success.
I believe this correlation is attributed to the candidates’ engagement with their followers on social media. Marando, for example, created a new Instagram account dedicated to running his campaign. He posted ten different times over the course of the election, highlighting different events he attended and campaign promises he intended to fulfill.
Conversely, some of Marando’s opponents did not rely as heavily on their social media presence, posting only a handful of times on Instagram.
The MSU Elections Department also acknowledged the importance and presence of social media in the presidential election. On the elections page, there were two appendices: one with candidacy rules and another six-page Appendix A, containing social media regulations that candidates were required to follow.
This appendix was tediously written and included an explanation of how to post on every major social media platform to ensure that no candidate had an unfair advantage.
Clearly, the MSU Elections Department understood the importance of regulating social media during elections in order to avoid potential problems related to digital campaigns.
One increasing problem on the world stage, for example, is the propagation of “fake news” — that is, disseminating information that is intentionally wrong with the goal of swaying thought and opinion. Clearly established social media regulations for candidates is therefore an important step towards addressing election misinformation.
Despite any potential negative consequences, social media platforms have important benefits during elections. Specifically, social media allows voters to make more informed decisions.
In a digital age where information can be retrieved in a matter of seconds, many have become apathetic towards researching electoral candidates. Social media then provides a fast and easy way for voters to learn about candidates’ platforms.
For example, Marando featured an Instagram post highlighting the key points of his campaign. This post took less than a minute to read and provided a basic understanding of his platform, allowing students to easily inform themselves.
The easy access to this information also facilitates one’s ability to compare different candidates and their platforms.
Social media in elections also provides a platform for direct dialogue between candidates and voters. Throughout each campaign, the MSU presidential candidates were posting, tweeting and sharing. Every social media platform allowed candidates to receive messages from the public, which ultimately encouraged political discourse.
Overall, I strongly believe that social media acts as a useful campaign tool in elections that future MSU presidential candidates should definitely take seriously.
Although some may argue that his popularity won him the election, I attribute Marando’s success to his effective social media strategies. By consistently posting succinct summaries of his campaign goals, Marando was able to spread his message to students in a simple and accessible manner.
In addition, with the increasingly influential nature of social media in elections, students should become more informed and equipped users of these platforms.
Marando used social media to his advantage to help him win a presidential election. Similarly, students should recognize social media’s extensive and far-reaching value as a necessary election tool in this new digital age.