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The influence of social media during elections

A political expert in Hampton Roads weighs in on social media's influence on elections.

NORFOLK, Va. — Election Day is upon us, but before the final votes are counted, political experts look into how social media platforms can influence an election.

"Social media has become one of the major ways that people get political news. In fact, some people don’t get their news any other way," said Jesse Richman, a political science professor at Old Dominion University.

Richman said social media is now considered a political strategy.

“Some campaigns from the Obama campaign to the Trump campaign in 2016 and so forth have famously used social media analytics to target advertisements," said Richman.

Some Hampton Roads residents said it's not smart to get your political opinions just from social media.

“Frankly, if you’re getting your political opinions from social media, it seems like that’s probably a person who hasn’t taken much time to formulate an opinion and do the critical thinking," said Norfolk resident Zachary Gilbert.

Gilbert said he stays off of social platforms because of politics.

“I don’t have any social media because I don’t like how everything is politically charged. You just can’t have a discussion," said Gilbert.

Others said people should fact-check as they scroll through their networking apps.

"You got to look at dates. You got to look at when this information was put out. And if it was put out not current, then it might not be as relevant," said Rico, a Hampton Roads resident who wished to not give his last name.

Richman said virtual communities can be a positive way to communicate, but he recommends voters not rely on one source of information.

“Social media is important, but you got to really look into to influence it has on you. If you’re comfortable with it, then you have to be comfortable with where it might lead you," said Rico.

Richman said he recently completed a study for ODU’s Life in Hampton Roads Survey 2022 asking people where they get most of their news. He said the answer is from the internet and social media.

Richman said parts of the survey are expected to come out later this week.

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