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I’m Voting Facebook app
CNN partnered with Facebook to create the I’m Voting app to encourage people to discuss political issues and pledge to vote, and to share insights from these conversations in their coverage of the 2012 presidential elections.
In a press release, CNN shared:
“The app will enable people who use Facebook to commit to voting and endorse specific candidates and issues. Commitments to vote will be displayed on people’s Facebook timeline, news feed, and real-time ticker…
The app will serve as a “second screen” for CNN’s America’s Choice 2012 political coverage. Via on-air, online and mobile segments, CNN personalities will use the app to ask Facebook users the most important questions driving the national dialogue and report on their answers.”
New direction for CNN
With CNN TV ratings touching a 21 year low and with a 23% drop in the 24-54 year old category, analysts commend the network’s partnership with Facebook and efforts to revamp their news products.
As Adweek writer Charlie Warzel pointed out:
“With ratings falling to a 21-year low in the second quarter of this year, CNN needs to make bold moves to draw viewers to its broadcasts, and it’s betting that Facebook is the answer.”
Sam Feist, CNN Washington bureau chief shared CNN’s vision for the 2012 elections:
“This partnership doubles down on CNN’s mission to provide the most engaging coverage of the 2012 election season. CNN’s unparalleled political reporting combined with Facebook’s social connectivity will empower more American voters in this critical election season.”
Power of social influence
The team behind the I’m Voting app and government 2.0 analysts believe that social citizenship can impact the outcome of the elections.
The U.S. Politics team on Facebook wrote:
“We believe that the power of friends — the social dynamic that creates a societal impact — will result in a more involved citizenry that turns out on Election Day, informed about the most critical issues facing the nation.”
Alex Howard, Government 2.0 Correspondent at O’Reilly Media, addressed the question “Will “social citizenship” play a role in Election 2012?” in a blog post recently, and shared this quote from Dennis Crowley, Founder of Foursquare,:
“If I check into a coffee shop all the time, my friends are going to be like, hey, I want to go to that coffee shop. We’re thinking the same thing could happen en masse if you start checking into these polling stations, if you start broadcasting that you voted, it may encourage other friends to go out there and do something.”
A recent study from University of California, San Diego validates this theory. The study estimates that 340,000 votes in the U.S. Congressional elections in 2010 can be attributed to a Facebook message that prompted people to vote. 60,000 people who saw the Facebook message posted that they had voted, thereby influencing their friends and resulting in an additional 280,000 votes.
James Fowler, the lead author of the study, highlighted the ‘friend factor’ as the main driver of change:
“Social influence made all the difference in political mobilization. It’s not the ‘I Voted’ button, or the lapel sticker we’ve all seen, that gets out the vote. It’s the person attached to it.”
Good platform for debate
People appreciate CNN’s efforts to create awareness and spark discussions around important issues, and point out the app’s potential in reaching young voters.
As Govind, member of the MSLGROUP Insights Network commented:
“I love the fact that this initiative gets media to partner people in recognising and thinking of real issues, and lets people see that they are not alone. Also, as this movement grows, political parties get to see that they need to deliver.”
Meghan McCain, daughter of 2008 presidential candidate John McCain, blogged:
“In my opinion, It will be really interesting to see how this Facebook integration influences conversations surrounding the election among young voters, and if it will become a platform for bipartisanship.”
Too much politics on Facebook?
However, several people are growing tired of the constant discussion of politics and the elections in media and on social media, and resent the additional discussions the app is likely to spark.
As CNET reader jeffhesser commented:
“sweet. i was hoping we’d come up with a great way to incite facebook ‘friends’ into making comments that i will ultimately have to delete and unfriend.”
Blogger Jordan Valinsky even featured the I’m Voting app in Daily Dot’s weekly column on things they hate about the internet:
“CNN has found a new way to make your overtly political friends even more annoying: the network has debuted a new Facebook application that infiltrates your feed with their dumb political views.”
Potential to gather metrics and insights
Analysts acknowledge the potential of the I’m Voting app to use metrics gathered from surveys and insights gleaned from conversations, both to predict trends and to better understand the views of the masses.
Online radio host Tim Berge noted:
“Currently, about 25-hundred Facebook users have pledged to vote in November. Of the participating users, 53 percent said they are Democrat, while 25 percent are Republican, and 22 percent said they are Independent.
And, despite what the candidates may be saying recently in their campaign attacks… most Facebook users are listing the economy as the most critical issue.”
Only represents Facebook & CNN fans
Several people have criticized the data collected from the app, pointing out that it does not truly represent the view of Americans but of Facebook and CNN users, the majority of whom are democratic.
Steve, a reader of online news blog kurzweilai.net, pointed out:
“Deriving polling data from an app like this would be almost useless because your sample population would be skewed by only including FB & CNN users.”
CNET reader Mr_Mop commented:
“If there was a Yahoo! app, it would be 96% Republican 1% Democrat and 3% Independent. If you don’t believe me, go read comments in political articles about Romney or Obama.”
Ignores independent candidates
Some have criticized the app for naming only Obama and Romney and ignoring independent candidates such as Gary Johnson, which comprises quality of data collected, and misleads app users.
As Jillian Mack commented:
“What the heck kind of poll leaves out a two term governor (Gary Johnson) who is already on the ballot in more than enough states to achieve electoral victory as president? CNN has ZERO credibility as a news source with a poll like this.”
Her comment was liked by 83 people.
People are also unhappy about the privacy concerns the app raises.
Some are wary about sharing their preferences with Facebook. As aka_tripleB commented:
“Who would want to give Facebook this kind of information? This will lead to all sorts of political calls and emails.”
Others point out that voting is a private matter. As Brian, a reader of online news blog kurzweilai.net, pointed out:
“The idea of voting includes privacy! It is a key element in the political process. This is persuasion through intimidation.”
Overall lack of trust & increase in cynicism
The criticism and comments from app users indicate a lack of trust in the media and elections coverage.
A Gallup survey released in September 2012 reported on this trend:
“Americans are clearly down on the news media this election year, with a record-high six in 10 expressing little or no trust in the mass media’s ability to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly…
“On a broad level, Americans’ high level of distrust in the media poses a challenge to democracy and to creating a fully engaged citizenry. Media sources must clearly do more to earn the trust of Americans, the majority of whom see the media as biased one way or the other. At the same time, there is an opportunity for others outside the “mass media” to serve as information sources that Americans do trust.”
The lack of trust is paired with an increase in cynicism towards elections coverage. Instead of accepting data at face value, people are actively evaluating and forming their own opinions.
As CNN reader ma3ai commented:
“does anyone else notice how this exercise was only useful and meaningful to cnn itself? it’s not a good representation of what americans think or people in general think. it is only a good representation of what cnn readers think. and they did it to poll their audience so that they can cater to the audience better.”
Role of data in election coverage
Analysts and journalists speculate that digital tools and data will play a big role this year – in media coverage and in people’s minds, and most digital companies are riding on this hype with their own data products.
As blogger Katherine Leonard wrote:
“Technology has certainly found its place in politics over the past four years, as is especially apparent come election season. Be it for traffic, data mining or a means of performing civic duty, the big names in tech, from Amazon to Microsoft to Google and Facebook, are providing the masses with a set of shiny new tools to be heard online.”
Will social trends predict next US president?
Some people believe that social trends will indicate the outcome of the elections. As Nathan Ingraham, news manager at The Verge, commented:
“By the time November 7th rolls around, we’ll be able to see which social network did a better job at predicting the outcome of this year’s presidential election.”
Others caution that insights must be separated from noise and that social trends may not be an accurate measure of the entire population. As Dave Einstein, contributor at Forbes, explained:
“Technology can be a two-edged sword. Remember the 1948 election, when the polls predicted a Dewey landslide over Truman? That election marked the first time pollsters relied on telephone surveys, giving them access to more voters—big data back then. It turned out that a lot of Truman supporters didn’t have phones.”
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