Politician or celebrity?

Elizabeth Golden

Politicians are everywhere these days, from magazine covers to television shows about their lives.

This is problematic when so many people get political information from Saturday Night Live or other comedic news forms. Once in a while, politicians even go so far to guest star on SNL.

“‘The Race for the White House’ is the best reality show on TV,” writes Max Robins, vice president at the Paley Center for Media. “Despite the flowering of a zillion voices — good, bad and ugly — we are getting informed and entertained this election season.”

Most recently,  social media has become an extremely large part of celebritizating American elections.

According to a Pew Research Center poll,  roughly 22 percent of Americans use social networking sites for campaign updates.

These updates will most likely come from biased friends as opposed to legitimate news sources. Certain politicians even go so far as to give speeches through Facebook, which has more than 152 million American users.

Barack Obama changed the face of politics in the 2008 elections. He gave speeches online, raised funding online and kept his humble followers updated. The Campaign Finance Institute reported Obama raised more than $5 million through social media, and $80 million overall through online donations.

The GOP hasn’t quite figured out the whole social media concept. According to the Pew survey, Democrats are  10 percent more likely to use online sources for campaigning.

This is probably an attempt to engage younger voters, who typically favor Democratic candidates.

The 2008 election showed the third highest turnout of young voters in history, and 2012 could also be a very important year.

Facebook reports that 96 percent of college students use the social networking site on a regular basis, so appealing to voters this way sounds like a good idea, right?

Why hasn’t the Republican Party made the transition online instead of appealing only to voters who already plan on voting for Mitt Romney?

When it comes to celebrity status, both parties have been guilty of provoking the audience.

At his first press conference, Obama was asked what breed of dog he was looking to acquire, and the “first dog” then went on to make front-page news.

In 2008, John McCain criticized Obama for his wannabe celebrity status, but then embraced Sarah Palin for all of her attention-getting ideas.

Many viewers don’t care if she’s qualified to run the country in case of an emergency, says Tucker Carlson, a campaign correspondent for MSNBC.

“The American people aren’t in the market for the most qualified person. They want to be inspired and entertained,” Carlson said on the cable network’s Hardball show.

According to presidential historian Douglas Brinkley of Rice University, this is not a new phenomenon. Treating politicians as celebrities goes as far back as Theodore Roosevelt.

Recently, Romney has stayed out of the celebrity spotlight more than Obama.

Michelle Obama read the Top 10 List on the David Letterman show, the President recently gave “redditors” 30 minutes to ask any question they chose, and shockingly, most questions weren’t even related to the election. Instead, the White House beer recipe has invaded all Internet news sources, claiming importance.

This isn’t about picking sides. It’s about the positive and negative relationship between celebrity status and social media. Social media use and celebrity status is definitely linked, and Americans should not replace real research about the issues with information garnered from social media.

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