No Red Or Blue Wave Despite Social Media Predictions – IGWIIKI

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For months, there was talk of an impending “red wave” that would see the Republicans take control of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Except, it wasn’t really ever as certain as some had actually predicted. As Politico.com reported, just seven weeks before the midterm elections, the GOP hope for a “takeback” of Congress was already diminishing.

In fact, after the Supreme Court revoked a 50-year constitutional right to abortion by overturning Roe v. Wade, a previously disengaged Democratic base was suddenly reignited – and throughout the summer there were those on social media suggesting it would be a “blue wave” that would come Election Day.

Breaking The Waves

As the Democratic surge had passed, modeling shifted again, and the GOP seemed predicted to win big. However, there was no wave on either side and that there were barely ripples at best. Everyone who predicted a wave on social media from either side seems to have gotten it completely wrong.

“Social media is the unguarded and largely ungoverned repository of random thoughts, emotions, conspiracies, speculation, and rumors. And once a topic gains traction, it is often amplified beyond proportion,” suggested Craig Barkacs, professor of business law and ethics in the Master’s in Executive Leadership and MBA Programs at the Knauss School of Business at the University of San Diego.

Though it was true that polls were indicating some close races, polls have also taken a reputational hit in recent years.

“To be fair, the notion that a red wave was coming was firmly rooted in empirical evidence, such as midterms that typically go against the party occupying the White House, inflation, a president with low approval ratings, and high gas price – along with the specter of a looming recession,” added Barkacs.

Thus, those proclaiming a red wave was coming were simply following what many pundits were already suggesting.

“Even though social media is not renowned for excesses of logic or reason, pushing back against such conspicuous historical trends turned out to be something few on social media were willing to do,” Barkacs continued.

Current Events

As more and more people turn to social media rather than traditional news outlets, the platforms are playing a significant role in shaping how people perceive current events. However, those “news” sources may not be all that trustworthy.

“People are prone to follow accounts and news sources that confirm their pre-existing beliefs. This means that people were likely to see news coverage that confirmed the version of the world they hoped would materialize,” explained Colin Campbell, associate professor of Marketing at the University of San Diego’s Knauss School of Business and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Advertising Research.

“Social media rewards those voices that stand out the most,” Campbell noted. “This is because more extreme views are more likely to prompt reactions – either likes or comments – from viewers, and thus are more likely to be prioritized by algorithms. This results in more extreme views being over-represented on social media and thus having an above-average influence on users.”

As a result, social media contributed to the belief from each political spectrum that a “wave” was coming, even as polls suggested very tight races.

The various algorithms may have made users think that their beliefs were shared by the majority of voters, when in fact, many of these races were quite close, said Dr. Julianna Kirschner, lecturer for the Master of Communication Management program at the University of Southern California.

“Social media platforms have contributed to polarization in political discourse because they echo back what inputs the users have provided,” she further explained. “The echo chambers in which users find themselves tend to repackage the same political content to which users have already been exposed.”

That can lead users to become familiar with narrow political discourse that supports their existing views, which they can then recycle into posts they write themselves on social media. Kirschner said that another problem for social media is the dichotomous political landscape in the United States.

“As a user, you are categorized as one thing or another: Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, red or blue,” Kirschner continued. “Rarely is a voter given the realistic option of choosing something else, such as a viable third-party candidate. Therefore, social media has followed suit in categorizing users through one of two lenses: Republican or Democrat.”

In essence, social media wasn’t wrong about the midterms per se. Instead, these platforms reflected back polarizing discourse to make us think one perspective was a greater representation of the voting block.

“True representation is actually more of a gray area,” said Kirschner. “Social media’s fault has been over-amplification, and our perception of the midterm elections was swayed by that feedback loop.”

That is especially true as the platforms have also proved to be those echo chambers that are highly partisan or demographically similar.

“It’s a bit ironic that social media, which so often divides people in fierce pursuit of what they think is right,” said Barkacs, “in this case unified people around a viewpoint that turned out to be so wrong.”

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