Date of Defense


Date of Graduation



Political Science

First Advisor

J. Kevin Corder

Second Advisor

John Clark

Third Advisor

Rei Ann Gordon


Throughout the 21st century, it is normal for social media users to see politics on virtually every platform an individual uses, ranging from LinkedIn to TikTok. Broadcast news, including television and radio have always aired political discussions, as mass communication became the most common and favorable way for politicians to communicate with constituents. However, politics were not a prominent aspect of social media use until less than a decade and a half ago. As the internet became further integrated into our daily lives, through radio, television, and cellular or smart phones, we found ourselves invested in politics at a previously unheard-of level. Knowing that most politicians and candidates currently use social media for themselves, it is vital to discuss the history of how exactly social media became so intertwined with politics, why it is so important, and how exactly it can and should be utilized for specific elections. There are several factors that go into voter turnout and engagement, and it’s important to know what future candidates can do to set themselves apart from others. With an extreme number of politicians utilizing social media for their campaign and bigger picture motives, understanding just how to use and what to do on each site is important for anyone who seeks to understand how to use social media and reap its potential benefits. This paper focuses on just how expansive and inclusive social media has become, how it came to be that way, and the most necessary and beneficial ways politicians at various levels can utilize the tools and algorithms that each platform offers. Beginning with a dive into the history of public broadcasting for campaigns then examining and explaining the origins and eventual explosion of using social media in politics. Following the history of mass media, an analysis and comparison of both the 2016 and 2020 elections will occur. Finding the similarities and differences in marketing, candidate portrayal and how one can control their own narrative, as well as how social media enables civil engagement. Finally, the last portion of this paper will cover what social media algorithms are, the different tools each platform provides, as well as what platforms can be the most useful to audience engagement, and lastly, how to utilize these algorithms and tools.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Open Access