"A recent survey of adults found that a majority of respondents — 61 percent – said they expect candidates in the 2012 U.S. presidential election to have a social media presence. And 38 percent of respondents in the survey, which polled adults on behalf of brand agency Digitas, said that information found on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook will help determine their voting choices just as much as TV or newspapers."
Well, no. That's not what the survey says. Look in the box on the top left of the graphic. It says that six out of 10 social media users think presidential candidates should increase their presence on things like Twitter and Facebook. The box next to it says that 82 percent of American grown-ups use social media. If you do the math, we end up with 50 percent of the population saying they want presidential hopefuls to up their presence on social media. That's still a sizeable percentage and number, but it's also wrong to say that six in 10 Americans think a presence on Twitter and Facebook are key to how they'll vote next year.
Who does it surprise to learn that social media users think the next president should use social media? Not me. I mean, look at the role that Twitter and Facebook played in the Arab Spring uprisings, that social media is playing in Syria, and that it played in President Obama's successful election campaign in 2008.
The real news in this survey was spotted by Matt Carmichael, who wrote about it on the AdAgeStat blog.
"Perhaps the surprising thing... is the stat that 40% of social-media users don't expect candidates to have a social-media presence."
Carmichael goes on to say that the politician who does not use social media is as backwards as -- and he lets us fill in the blanks. Maybe he's too young to remember the rotary phone and the time when party lines had nothing to do with how politicos voted but referred to someone you shared a phone line with, but that would be a good one to fill in the blanks with.
In any case, I found the original story to be a good example of why you should always go back to the original source of a story to double-check facts. In this case, that meant going back to the survey.
I am not saying that Twitter and Facebook are not key tools that candidates for the White House have to master. They are. As Digitas senior vice president Jordan Bitterman, who is also the agency's social marketing practice director (that has to be in the running for job title of the year), said in a release posted on PR Newswire:
"JFK is considered the first television President. Next year's victor may well be determined by the impact of Facebook and Twitter."