Facebook allegiances prove weak in election
Colorful campaign T-shirts and bulletin boards plastered with political posters are commonplace during ASUO election season. But this year, some candidates have also turned to a new online social network for college students to spread the word about their platforms and enlist volunteers.
Web-savvy candidates and their supporters have used Thefacebook.com, a directory of student profiles frequented by many at the University, to create virtual groups centered on voting for or against certain candidates. About 1,600 students have joined groups for six of the seven Executive candidates who ran in the primaries. Yet after the results of last week’s primary elections, some candidates doubt the usefulness of Thefacebook groups for getting out the vote.
Any student with a University e-mail address can create a profile on the service, initiate groups and join other groups, such as those for the candidates. Once a student joins a group, they can send and receive group announcements. Some groups also allow members to post messages.
Although Thefacebook started Feb. 4, 2004, this is the first year it has been used for ASUO elections, Election Board Coordinator Kelly Cheeseman said.
She said the board, which created a profile on Feb. 17, was one of the first groups to take the election to cyberspace.
Actual voter turnout numbers show that Thefacebook supporters don’t necessarily translate into votes. About 7,580 students currently have Thefacebook profiles, but only 2,960 students voted in the primary election.
Ashley Rees and Jael Anker-Lagos’ group has 232 members, but received 907 votes to win the primary. Candidates Adam Walsh and Kyla Coy have only 30 members in their group, but received 455 votes in the contest.
Third-place candidates Jacob Daniels and Adi Cargni have the most members with 712 listed supporters. Yet the ticket received 22 votes less than Walsh’s campaign.
Daniels said it is “tough to say” what effect Thefacebook had on the election, although he expected it to work “a little better” than it did. He said it was a good way to get students interested, but not necessarily the best way to get them to vote.
Daniels added that some students were in multiple candidates’ groups.
“The loyalty really wasn’t there on Facebook,” he said.
The Evan Geier-David Goward and Anthony Caruso-Robbie McEachern tickets both have 255 members, but Geier received 250 votes compared with Caruso’s 171 votes.
Candidates Nick Hudson and Allison Sprouse have 117 members.
Rees told the Emerald that Thefacebook is “kind of an innovation,” but it doesn’t replace talking with students on the street.
“Our take on it is that the most important thing in an election and for the ASUO in general is having contact with students,” she said. “Facebook’s fun; I like Facebook, but for campaigning we want to make sure we’re actually building a bridge with students and communicating with students.”
Anker-Lagos added that it’s a “great way to gather contact information.”
Coy said the Internet phenomenon is useful for political campaigns, but hasn’t had a big effect on the local level.
Walsh said Thefacebook can be a great tool to let students know who’s running, but it is “ludicrous” to think that because someone accepts an invitation to join a group that they will actually vote.
The Daniels-Cargni ticket also spent $40 for advertising on Thefacebook, according to financial paperwork filed by the candidates. Advertisements currently cost $13 for University students and are viewed about 40,000 each day, according to Thefacebook.com.
Daniels said the rationale behind the ads was to encourage students to vote online if they were already on
“It was another attempt to grab the attention of other people who didn’t have their minds made up,” he said.
Daniels said he recently sent a message to all his group members urging them to vote for Walsh in the general election this week, noting that Thefacebook “might still affect the election to some extent.”
More recently, the “Just say NO to Ashley and Jael” group has attracted 35 members.
A group dedicated to EMU wind energy Ballot Measure 21, which received a majority of the primary vote, has 830 fewer members than votes it received.
Thefacebook has also provided an outlet for students to continue the tradition of joke candidacies, such as “Mechagodzilla For ASUO President!,” ” Eric and Gray For asuo Co-presidents,” “Doug and Pat For ASUO Exec” and fictional movie characters “Harold and Kumar For asuo Exec.”
Students use the groups to express other sentiments as well, such as “I’m Tired of People Begging Me For asuo Exec on Facebook.”