Are 'Indiscreet' Images On Social Networks Really Having An Impact On Elections?

from the seems-blown-out-of-proportion dept

Back in 2006, we wondered what was going to happen when the generation that grew up with social networking started running for office. Would their youthful indiscretions -- now shared with thousands of friends -- come back to haunt them? Or would people just chalk them up to typical youthful indiscretions? I'm not quite sure we know the answer yet, but the NY Times has an article suggesting that we're already seeing the impact, naming a few different campaigns where various images and videos of less-than-flattering activities became a campaign issue. But here's the thing which the NY Times conveniently ignores: it appears that while some tried to make something out of these photos and videos, it's difficult to find any indication that it had any impact at all. Some of the candidates in the article won, and some lost. Those that lost, it appears, were likely to lose anyway. If anything, perhaps the article should have made the point that the American voter is (oh my goodness!) smart enough not to care all that much about someone doing something silly that's caught in a photograph.


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  •  
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Nov 10th, 2010 @ 4:07am

    Or, all candidates are so lousy in important areas,

    that hardly anything matters.

    Best comment I've seen lately on politics (can't recall where, and paraphrased): [With Obama] What happened? I voted for a Democrat! Instead I got another term of Bush.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 10th, 2010 @ 4:16am

    unless these indecent pictures turn out to contradict everything they do or say during their campaign, there's not much impact to be had. If they do contradict everything you say you stand for, well dirt is dirt and there's not a big difference between "social" dirt and non social dirt.

     

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    cc (profile), Nov 10th, 2010 @ 4:20am

    "the American voter is (oh my goodness!) smart enough not to care all that much about someone doing something silly that's caught in a photograph"

    It appears to me that most elections are won through dishonest advertising and cheap shots against the opponents these days.

    Perhaps it's a cynical way to look at things, but I think most politicians would be more than happy to spin their opponents' old facebook pics to tarnish their image.

    The voters may normally be smart enough to realise that FB pics are silly and shouldn't make a difference, but with enough brainwashing and a well-thought smear campaign, they could make a difference.

     

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      Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Nov 10th, 2010 @ 5:17am

      Re:

      The American voter doesn't care about someone doing something silly becomes they've seen it for a century now. One side digs up as much dirt as physically possible on the other and splashes it all over TV. I don't see how this is any different.

       

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        DS, Nov 10th, 2010 @ 5:50am

        Re: Re:

        The average voter doesn't care because they blindly vote party lines. Partially because they bought into the belief that the party is the main thing (and sadly, they are right, parties control the politician, not the other way around), and partially because our current method of voting only allows for one of the two 'main' candidates to have a chance to win.

         

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          interval (profile), Nov 10th, 2010 @ 8:12am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "The average voter doesn't care because they blindly vote party lines."

          So the recent midterm elections mean...?

          I wish more people would think about what they're going to say rather than blindly type it in.

           

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            DS, Nov 10th, 2010 @ 8:57am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            That they went from selecting (D) to selecting (R).

            And more people that wanted to select (R) voted.

             

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            Derek Bredensteiner (profile), Nov 10th, 2010 @ 9:14am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            This recent midterm election is a perfect example of people blindly voting for a party rather than looking at any other factors. Perfect example.

             

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              nasch (profile), Nov 10th, 2010 @ 10:39am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              How do you explain an independent winning by saying people blindly voted for a party?

               

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                Derek Bredensteiner (profile), Nov 11th, 2010 @ 1:35pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                I really meant the more general windfall of "those democrats really fucked up, let's replace them with republicans" which exactly 2 years ago was "those republicans really fucked up, let's replace them with democrats". And the resulting large swaths of "democrats" or "republicans" that get elected due to that mentality.

                But yes, absolutely you're right, there were several exceptions and those should be talked about and celebrated.

                 

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    abc gum, Nov 10th, 2010 @ 4:22am

    At least one candidate was affected by their prior quirks caught on video. Even though I believe her statement that she is not a witch, I still would not have voted for her.

     

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      Erin B., Nov 10th, 2010 @ 9:14am

      Re:

      Are you talking about Christine O'Donnell? I don't know that the "prior quirks" in question were really "caught" -- she was on a television show as a talking head. She signed up for it. It's not like she rambled in the comments at a friend's blog post. She was saying those things in a professional capacity; and anyway most of those quirky things haven't been disavowed by her or her camp.

      The only thing regarding O'Donnell's race that was a "gotcha!" moment was the post on Gawker about her going home -- but not having intercourse -- with that one dude. And that came pretty late in a race wherein she'd already distinguished herself more as a nutter butter than a viable political candidate.

       

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        abc gum, Nov 10th, 2010 @ 6:08pm

        Re: Re:

        "I don't know that the "prior quirks" in question were really "caught" "

        - look into it a bit further

        "she was on a television show as a talking head"

        - yeah, some time ago on Bill Maher's show ... which he then re-aired later, prior to the election.

        "She was saying those things in a professional capacity"

        - Oh, ok

        "most of those quirky things haven't been disavowed by her"

        - I'm not a witch

        "The only thing regarding O'Donnell's race that was a "gotcha!" moment was the post on Gawker about her going home -- but not having intercourse -- with that one dude."

        - I guess there was no real impact on her campaign due to the videos of less-than-flattering statements.

         

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    Ossar, Nov 10th, 2010 @ 4:37am

    Shiet

    Haha i really like that kind of undiscreate marketing, just like when i post this link https://mostinvincible.com/ and tell you to post an invincible youtubeclip to win an iPad :)

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 10th, 2010 @ 4:42am

    "the American voter is (oh my goodness!) smart enough not to care all that much about someone doing something silly that's caught in a photograph"

    Which American voter are is this? I want a name.

     

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    no, Nov 10th, 2010 @ 5:30am

    You're all wrong, people do what the media tell them.

    If they are told that they dislike a certain person with "politician x disgraced for previous indiscretions, polls expected to take a dip", then people will follow like sheep.

    Reminds me of the classic Clinton impeachment example.

     

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      interval (profile), Nov 10th, 2010 @ 8:17am

      Re:

      "If they are told that they dislike a certain person with "politician x disgraced for previous indiscretions, polls expected to take a dip", then people will follow like sheep."

      Also incorrect and easily shown by the outcome of the November midterms. If people simply voted the way the media told them the democrats would have been blown in to office with no effort.

       

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    Pickle Monger (profile), Nov 10th, 2010 @ 5:59am

    "[...] the American voter is (oh my goodness!) smart enough not to care all that much about someone doing something silly that's caught in a photograph."

    Perhaps it's the cynic in me but I'd venture that most voters would rather vote along the party lines and ignore the "indiscretions of youth" than to vote for the opposing and better-qualified candidate.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 10th, 2010 @ 6:02am

    "the American voter is (...) smart"

    LMAO good one.

     

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    Justin, Nov 10th, 2010 @ 7:07am

    Anybody come across any academic analysis for the last decade of elections? The article raises good questions about what gets candidates into office.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 10th, 2010 @ 7:53am

    Do I vote for jackass #1 or jackass #2? Either way we lose. What would be cool is if we could actually vote on the issues. Instead of voting on the the person who may or may not do what they campaign.

     

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      Free Capitalist (profile), Nov 10th, 2010 @ 9:26am

      Re:

      What would be cool is if we could actually vote on the issues.

      No, that would be bad. California's proposition system has many great examples for why this is a bad idea. Voters have shown again and again that the vast majority of voters come to vote for one person, then "vote with their conscience" for everything else.

      What this amounts to is voters making their decisions by the issue/proposition headline on the ballot itself. This is why California sees a succession of "Clean Water Bonds" pass, when there is never any obligation to use the debt incurred for any specific purpose.

      More recently, in my district, voters passed an issue that allows their City Council to hold private decision making sessions. The ballot headline for that gem read "Bring Columbus Ordinance into Compliance with State Law".

      No, I have to disagree with Mike on this one. Voters may be smart, but they practice voting stupidly. Real stupid.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 10th, 2010 @ 8:49am

    I spent my whole life working my ass off to be able to be secure by living in a gated community, only to have my children tell all our family's private stuff on a stupid web page. Oh the irony!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 10th, 2010 @ 10:21am

    Not only the candidates grew up with social networking

    A large part of the voters have also grown up with social networking. Seeing a silly photo from facebook or MySpace is no different from what they see every day, and have for years.

     

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