By the end of today the election frenzy will finally start to abate. But for today at least, it’s still an endless stream of polling, predictions and political ads. However, another source of information and predictions has made a splash this election cycle: Twitter.
Twitter, started in 2006, was moderately adopted in the 2008 General Election. But the 2012 election cycle has broken many records for Twitter.
On Election Day in 2008, 1.8 million total tweets were posted to the social networking site.
Fast forward four years to the first presidential debate on Oct. 3. More than 10 million tweets, specifically about politics, were posted in 90 minutes. More than 20 million tweets were posting during the Democratic and Republican conventions.
“The scale has shifted so dramatically with the amount of conversation happening,” says Elaine Filadelfo, a spokesperson with Twitter. Filadelfo works with Twitter’s government and election team.
“What we’ve seen is that twitter has become the place for this intelligent focused discussion to happen around politics over the past four years–both between voters and because of the prevalence of elected officials and candidates on Twitter themselves.”
— Twitter Government (@gov) November 6, 2012
Filadelfo explains that Twitter becomes useful in elections because it establishes a direct method for people to get in touch with candidates and elected officials. She notes this is particularly valuable for people living in more rural states like Alaska, where candidates may not visit and traveling to rallies and events might not be possible.[quote]“Being on Twitter and following the candidates, whether it’s the presidential candidates, whether it’s your own governor or local legislator candidate you can have that one on one interaction with them. You can tweet a question and many campaigns are quite responsive. You can see pictures in real time from a rally. You can see a staffer live tweeting what one of the candidates is saying. So it really breaks down that border if you’re not able to go to these sorts of events in person and have that same direct relationship. You can still be a part of that through Twitter,” Filadelfo says.[/quote]
While Alaska may feel as far from the national election as it gets, Alaskans have also been active participants in the political discussion on Twitter.
— Gov. Sean Parnell (@AKGovParnell) November 1, 2012
The tricky part is figuring out just how many Alaskans. Twitter doesn’t require users to identify their location, unless the user self identifies their location or uses geotagging for their tweets.
“Nothing requires you to tell us where you are coming from,” Filadelfo says.
However, users that have identified themselves as from Alaska, contribute enough data for Twitter to calculate which political issues are resonating with Alaskan voters. Twitter measures this by how much users in Alaska engage with tweets by favoriting, retweeting or replying. The results are displayed in an interactive Political Engagement Map.
This election day, Filadelfo expects there to be a notable amount of conversation on Twitter.
They say the #election conversation may crash Twitter today – we shall see!
— Senator Mark Begich (@SenatorBegich) November 6, 2012
“The great thing about the election–well of course we hope–is that so many will be voting and sharing their opinions. It really is something for everyone to rally around and for everyone to be sharing about. It’s something the whole nation can participate in. So we do think it will be a really interesting day on Twitter,” Filadelfo says.
Today is Election Day – I encourage all Alaskans to exercise your right to vote. Find your polling place here: 1.usa.gov/VQVyP3
— Gov. Sean Parnell (@AKGovParnell) November 6, 2012
All accounts are publically visible, so even if a person doesn’t have their own account, they can still see other’s tweets. Twitter has a created an event page for the national election that curates tweets about the election from a variety of politicians, candidates, pundits and citizen users.
Voters can follow updates about the Alaska Election by searching tweets with the #akelect tag.