“It’s morning in America again,” as Reagan would say. Citizens are returning back to a normal life. News headlines no longer flash the race between the staunch conservative and the hopeful liberal. Facebook statuses and tweets no longer deluge newsfeeds with voter preferences and political views; random e-mail blasts have ceased; “I Voted” stickers are now vestiges of voter participation; and online ads no longer invite you to “Dinner with Barack.” Elections are over. But the aftermath of the quadrennial Red v. Blue war has attracted a hefty number of political junkies to analyze the results, including me. How did both candidates target supporters? What is this talk of endangered whales and secret data projects? How big of a role did social media play into this? What tension lies between a winning strategy and unintended consequences? Most importantly, what does this mean for future elections and constituents? I seek to answer these questions. I will argue that the 2012 Obama and Romney campaign teams effectively utilized technological strategies to optimize the one step flow of communication, and as a result, polarize the public. My argument will give insight to how this election has separated the political landscape by using technological spin offs of old time campaign strategies. This proven claim will allow viewers to grasp the importance of the one step flow of communication in respect technology and its effect on the public. Most importantly, readers will be able to understand the tension between winning campaign strategies and polarization. I will begin by outlining the history of the two-step flow of communication. Following, the one-step flow of communication will be broken down. Key concepts will also be defined. The crux of my argument will be revealed in my campaign strategy analysis and its polarizing effects. Closing, I will address how this directly affects and relates to specific groups. The goal is to prove that short-term, winning campaign strategies have lasting consequences.
Before I dive into the complex pool of data and technology in respect to politics, I must explain the two-step flow of communication. The communication hypothesis formed from a late 1940s voting study and models the flow of information and influence in the political realm. More specifically this model proposed, “that influences stemming from the mass media first reach ‘opinion leaders’ who in turn, pass on what they read and hear to those of their every-day associates for whom they are influential” (Katz 61). Katz notes of three distinct findings: “1. Personal influence affected voting decisions more than the mass media did, particularly in the case of those who changed their minds during the course of the campaign. . . .” “2. The effectiveness of interpersonal influence, as it is revealed in the studies under review, is reflected in the homogeneity of opinions and actions in primary groups” (Katz 71). Namely, influence in social networks is reflected in groups with low diversity. 3. Mass media has various roles and “often [plays] a reinforcing role in strengthening of predisposition and of decisions already taken (Katz 72).
In today’s society, the two-step flow of communication is clearly outdated. The model does not account for technologies like Facebook, Twitter, or metric analyses that have a profound impact on communication. Bennet and Manheim emphasize that “the combination of social isolation, communication channel fragmentation, and message targeting technologies have produced a very different information recipient (215). This is where the one-step flow of communication comes in. Communication technology and individual communication doings have changed and for the most part have “isolated increasing numbers . . . of today’s citizens from the very groups that traditionally provided vital cues for interpreting information” (215). In other words, the top