The 2008 Presidential Campaign: Political Cynicism in the Age of Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube

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Mass Communication and Society

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2008 Presidential campaign, cynicism, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube


American Politics | Communication


Considerable research over the years has been devoted to ascertaining the impact of media use on political cynicism. The impact of the Internet has been difficult to assess because it is not a single monolithic medium. For example, the 2008 presidential campaign was the first presidential campaign in which popular social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube were widely available to voters. Therefore, the campaign offered the first opportunity to explore the influence of these social media on political cynicism. In this study, we examined whether the use of such social media influenced political cynicism. We also considered the influence of user background characteristics (e.g., self-efficacy, locus of control, political orientation, demographics, and influence of family and friends), motives for using social media for political information, and users’ elaboration on political content. Several individual differences were stronger predictors of political cynicism than was social media use. In fact, social networking use was a negative predictor of political cynicism. Results supported uses and gratifications’ notions that the influence of social media on political cynicism is more attributable to user background and media-use differences than to sheer use of these popular sites.