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Saturday, September 14 • 4:46pm - 6:30pm
“An Exploratory Functional Analysis of Presidential Campaign Twitter Use”

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“The rise of social media, in specific, Twitter in terms of setting the narrative both during and post-debates. Of essentially, allowing us to develop a Twitter narrative that will assist in raising funds. It fundamentally reshaped how people talked about the debates. In a process that has implications for the future and as we go forward in 2015 and it will probably provide a whole new way in which debates are discussed.” 

Stuart Stevens, Senior Strategist for the 2012 Mitt Romney Presidential Campaign- The 2012 Harvard Campaign Decision Makers Conference 

The above quote was in response to the question, what was a major take away for you after the 2012 Presidential campaign? This somewhat innocuous quote highlights how contemporary political campaigns must, with the rise of social networking sites and other Web 2.0 tools, reconsider their ability to control political narratives within social networking sites (Gueorguieva, 2008). Benoit’s Functional theory of political campaign discourse has provided researchers a robust lens in which to examine the rhetorical function of communication mediums and message sources (Benoit, 1995). Functional Theory possesses a complex system of axioms and predictions explaining campaign use of different media platforms including but not limited to television, radio, and direct mail advertising, in addition to debates and campaign websites (Benoit 2006). However, scholars have yet to apply Functional Theory to analyze political campaign usage of social networking sites (SNS), an increasingly important tool for political campaigns’ engagement with the public. 

Electoral candidates bring their own strategic agenda to the use of social networking sites, but the various agendas of opposing candidates, advocacy groups, the press and the public at-large work to insure that candidates must execute more than their agenda (Grant, Moon, & Busby Grant, 2010). This proposal seeks to continue this vein of inquiry by examining the structural affordances that exist within the Twitter platform that may constrain, in particular, presidential campaign use. A content analysis was conducted to test Functional Theory’s central axioms and messaging predictions as it pertains to the 2012 Obama for America campaign’s use of the Twitter social networking site.


David Montez

Florida State University, United States

Saturday September 14, 2013 4:46pm - 6:30pm
Rowe Atrium

Attendees (2)