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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Comments on “Are 'Indiscreet' Images On Social Networks Really Having An Impact On Elections?”

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26 Comments
cc (profile) says:

“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.

DS says:

Re: 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.

Derek Bredensteiner (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 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.

Erin B. says:

Re: 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.

abc gum says:

Re: 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.

interval (profile) says:

Re: 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.

Pickle Monger (profile) says:

“[…] 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.

Free Capitalist (profile) says:

Re: 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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