December 17, 2017
Candidate Donald Trump’s Use of Social Media in the 2016
United States Presidential Election and how it impacted voters ages 18-29 in
the key swing state of Pennsylvania
A Research Proposal by Anne Walther
This capstone will examine
Republican candidate Donald Trump’s use of social media in the 2016 United
States presidential election. The influence of social media in national
elections is stronger than it has ever been. In a presidential election where
the victor won 18 states by fewer than 250,000 votes, social media influence is
more important to examine than ever.
According to an article Pew Research
Center, in February 2016 approximately one third of 18- to 29-year-olds named
social media as the most helpful type of source for learning about the 2016
presidential election. This is significant because the Census Bureau published
that in 2016, young voters
ages 18 to 29 were the only age group to report increased voter turnout with a
1.1% increase compared to 2012 statistics, and according to NPR, millennials
made up 31% of the potential electorate. According to Pew Research Center,
Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton received a lower percentage of the votes
than candidate Barack Obama received in 2008 or 2012. This alone shows us that
social media played a direct role in helping elect candidate Donald Trump as
President of the United States.
research will examine how candidate Donald Trump and his social media team used
social media throughout the campaign as a whole. Additionally, this case study
will cover 15 specific notable instances of candidate Donald Trump’s tweets
throughout the campaign and how it impacted his voter pool both directly and indirectly
by stimulating more media coverage via a feedback loop.
Additionally, I will
be conducting a survey for 100 people who voted in the 2016 presidential
election that are in between the ages of 18-29. The survey will include
questions gauging how important social media was in determining who each person
voted for. I’ll look for trends along party lines and issues important to
The literature used in
this research will primarily be tweets from Twitter will be examining Donald
Trump’s personal Twitter account @realDonaldTrump to find some of his most
notable tweets during the campaign period. This will include a range from
offensive tweets that attack Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton along with
then current President of the United States Barack Obama to defensive tweets
apologizing for a video that was released close to election day. I’ll examine some of the comments on these
tweets to understand how these tweets made his supporters and other potential
Tweets that generate
media buzz start what is commonly referred to as a feedback loop. The tweet
gains notoriety from Twitter itself, but the tweet’s impact is multiplied when
these online or cable news outlets have the opportunity to share both the
content itself and their interpretation of said content with more potential
voters. I will then delve into the media coverage of these notable tweets from
a variety of news sources such as the Washington Post, the Daily Beast, New
York Times, the Business Times, CNN, Fox News and more. To understand voter
demographics and to what degree social media
and feedback loop could impact the presidential election, I will be
looking at statistics from PEW Research Center and Census.gov.
candidate Donald Trump’s social media use, specifically his tweets, help or
harm him in the 2016 United States presidential election in the key swing state
of Pennsylvania with voters between the ages of 18-29?
Methodology for this research can be
broken down into two phases. The first phase will include deciding 15 of Donald
Trump’s most popular tweets during the campaign period and then examining media
coverage for these tweets.
phase will include drafting a survey to measure what issues are most important
to voters and also how these voters reacted to the tweets. Before the survey is
distributed, I would have the participants sign an informed consent document to
ensure confidentiality and minimize liability.
The survey will be broken up into
two parts. To start the survey, the participants will fill out some basic
demographic information. The first part will be to measure where voters stand
on each issue by having a statement about the issue and a Likert scale to
measure how much they agree with the statement. Then they will answer using a
scale how important each issue is to them. The first part will finish with a
question of how much did candidate social media and media coverage of
candidates’ social media played a role in who they decided to vote for.
The second part of the survey will have to do
with candidate Trump’s social media use, with pictures of his popular tweets
during the campaign season and a scale of 1-9 under each tweet for how much
they approve or disapprove of each Tweet.
the survey would be distributed to over 100 Pennsylvania voters age 18-29 and
have at least 25 responses from left-learning females, 25 responses from
right-leaning females, 25 responses from left-leaning males, and 25 responses
from right-leaning females. The informed consent and part 1 of the survey will
be as follows (part 2 of the survey has not been drafted yet).
This research study
is about social media impact in the 2016 United States Presidential Election.
This consent form requests you allow the researcher, Anne Walther, to record,
view, and analyze your results and comments to further enhance her understanding
of the research topic. This consent form also establishes permission to use any
observations associated with your survey results as data in the study.
Published results will keep all names confidential, and any quotes will be
attributed to a participant number rather than a name. Participation in this
study is voluntary. Deciding not to participate will not entail any negative
By submitting this
form you are indicating that you have read the above statements about the study
and that you agree to the terms as described above.
Over the age of 18 circle yes no
in the 2016 United States Presidential General Election as a Pennsylvania
Resident circle yes no
1. At the
time of the 2016 Presidential Election, what political party were you
2. At the
time of the 2016 Presidential Election, what was your legally registered sex?
3. What is your birthday
4. How old were you when you voted for the 2016 United
States Presidential General Election?
5. On a
political spectrum from left to right where the further left entails more
liberal ideas and the further right represents more conservative ideals, fill
in the blank by circling the answer choice that most describes your political
most of my ideals to be_____________________________.
very left leaning
slightly left leaning to very left leaning.
moderate to slightly left leaning.
moderate to slightly right leaning.
slightly right leaning to very right leaning.
very right leaning.
6. Likert Scale Political
On a scale from strongly disagree to strongly agree, please
circle the phrase indicating your sentiment towards each statement. On a scale from
not important to of highest importance, please circle the phrase indicating how
important the issue surrounding the previous statement is to you.