AP®︎/College US Government and Politics
Technology and presidential communication
Modern technology and social media have amplified the president's communication power. Presidents can now "go public" by speaking directly to the electorate to gain policy support. Social media platforms like Twitter allow rapid responses to events, reaching millions of followers, and targeting specific demographics, enhancing the president's influence on public opinion.
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- [Tutor] In this video, we're going to talk a little bit about how modern technology like social media has enhanced the communication power of the presidency. Now, being president has a lot of advantages, but politically one of those advantages is that as president, you're automatically newsworthy. So cameras and shows are gonna be interested in talking to you, hearing what you have to say. Now, this has always been the case for presidents. If they wanted to publish an editorial in a newspaper back in the 1790s, they could have done that. But one major advantage that presidents have today is advances in communication technology. And by that, I mean not only the wealth of media choices that are out there in terms of channels and methods of distribution like YouTube, but also social media like Facebook or Twitter. So why would presidents be interested in using social media in the first place? Well, check out this graph from the Pew Research Center that shows how much the following of politicians has grown in just four years, from 2010 to 2014. You can see that it doesn't matter how old someone is or whether they're Republican or Democrat. Across the board, the percent of registered voters who follow candidates for office has doubled in just this short time. So what does this mean for the president in particular? Well, one thing it does is make it much easier for the president to do something called going public. And going public is when the president goes directly to the electorate, speaks directly to the people to gain support for their policies. So they're bypassing members of Congress and speaking directly to the electorate to try to drum up support for whatever policy they'd like to enact. And the range of diverse media outlets that serve different demographics means that it's pretty easy for the president to speak directly to whichever demographic he or she's interested in talking to. So they can craft a message that appeals to one specific demographic. For example, let's take a look at an appearance that former president Barack Obama made on the internet show Between Two Ferns. - Have you heard of the Affordable Care Act? - Oh yeah, I heard about that. That's the thing that doesn't work. Why would you get the guy that created the Zune to make your website? - Healthcare.gov works great now, and millions of Americans have already gotten health insurance plans. And what we want is for people to know that you can get affordable healthcare. And most young Americans, right now they're not covered. And the truth is is that they can get coverage, all for what it costs to pay your cell phone bill. - [Tutor] So you'll notice that in that clip, Obama was speaking directly to young people, going through a show that young people were likely to watch and even using language that was geared toward young people, like saying that healthcare costs about as much as your cell phone bill, all in service of trying to promote the policy of the Affordable Care Act. Barack Obama was also the first president to create an official presidential Twitter handle @POTUS, President of the United States, which then in the transfer of power from the Obama administration to the Trump administration now is the official Twitter handle of Donald Trump. And Trump is particularly well known for using Twitter to reach a broad audience. Check out this tweet from July 5th, 2018, which talks about Trump's position on immigration laws. So let's read these. Congress must pass smart, fast and reasonable immigration laws now. Law enforcement at the border is doing a great job, but the laws they are forced to work with are insane. When people, with or without children, enter our country, they must be told to leave without our country being forced to endure a long and costly trial. Tell the people "Out" and they must leave, just as they would if they were standing on your front lawn. Hiring thousands of judges does not work and is not acceptable. Only country in the world that does this. So you can see what Trump is doing here is speaking directly to the people and asking them to influence Congress in support of his policy stance. So using Twitter allows Trump to speak to more than 50 million followers, and it allows the president to have a rapid response to events as they unfold. So instead of having to wait for a newspaper to print an editorial tomorrow or on Sunday, it's possible to speak to the electorate within minutes of an important event happening. So overall, modern technology and social media have really increased the impact of the president's power to communicate with the electorate, to get out policy initiatives and to advertise them, and to speak quickly and directly to the people.