Social media’s growing influence on politics

social_media_cubeThere’s no doubt social media has changed the way we live and work, and new studies are showing that sites like Facebook and Twitter are also having a major impact in the halls of Congress.

One poll found that senior Congressional and European Parliamentarian staffers regularly use Web sites and social media to research, influence and set policy. According to a story on edelman.com, “Nearly every staffer (96%) uses online resources for public policy research, more than half (54%) reported learning of policy issues for the first time online and one in five (19%) actually changed policy positions based on information and opinions they found online.” The poll also found staffers use blogs and social media to track constituent opinions on issues.

The debate is raging at the National Journal’s Under the Influence blog about how influential social media really is to politicians. Reporter Bara Vaida asks the question: to what extent are lobbyists using social media and how does that impact elected officials? The response from many experts in the field was overwhelming: anyone trying to influence government must embrace social media.

One study examines how members of Congress themselves are embracing social media and Twitter in particular. The report: “Twongress – The Power of Twitter in Congress” found that many Senators and Representatives are using Twitter. Adoption of Twitter varies by party and by House vs. Senate. House Republicans are the most active users of Twitter – that group sent out 29,162 Tweets during the study’s time frame, compared to just 5,503 tweets from Democrats.

Social media is changing the way politicians influence and are influenced. Sites like Facebook and Twitter are having a growing impact on how politicians and their staffers gather information and form policy positions. Lobbyists and constituents are also having success getting through to politicians using the same means.

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