Could Mr. Trump’s Election Model be Applied to Japanese Elections Using the Internet?
School of Information and Communication, Meiji University
Even though the social media was the same, there were differences in how it was used
A public viewing hall for supporters who waited three hours under the blazing sun but couldn’t get into candidate Clinton’s rally. (August 1, 2016, Omaha, Nebraska)
After the election, Trump said that “social media helped me win my election” in an interview with a CBS news program, but of course the Clinton campaign also had a social media strategy and used an outside group to form a rapid response team. The Clinton campaign’s strategy centered on using Twitter as an instant way to circulate campaign information as news. For example, when she gave a victory speech in the primary election, the contents of the speech were posted on Twitter in real time, and a lot of use was made of videos to present an attractive package, like broadcasting edited versions of Mrs. Clinton’s TV adverts, which had a strong connotation that they were announcements from Mrs. Clinton. However, these were controlled from above, and rather than being a conversation with voters, you could say it was more like a personal television station. In contrast, Mr. Trump used Twitter as an informal tool for communication, and a way to spread his conversations with supporters. This helped his messages, which could be characterized as reckless remarks, resonate with voters who “wanted a change in the status quo,” and provided fertile ground to wildly enthuse Trump supporters.
Did major media outlets that were supposedly anti-Trump help create him!?
However, a fascinating phenomenon began to occur. Major media outlets started showing an interest in Mr. Trump’s extreme messages that were evoking sympathetic responses. At first, even though they treated Mr. Trump’s reckless remarks and inflammatory stories on websites as comical, they became highly valuable news items. Despite being unable to enlist major media outlets as an ally, and the communication on Twitter being like that of a fan club, it was conveyed to many voters by major media outlets reporting on it, which created a cycle that inflated the topic. It’s hard to imagine in Japan, but newscasters on American news programs would have computer terminals on their desk, and if there was a tweet from Mr. Trump, even if they were in the middle of other news, they would continually tell their audience about them throughout the program, saying “Mr. Trump has just said this.” Twitter would make the media report on Mr. Trump, and because the media was reporting on him, Mr. Trump would tweet more and more, leading to the occurrence of a spiraling phenomenon. In the end, it got to the extent that on a day when Mr. Trump lost one of the primary elections, the CNN newscaster didn’t comment on the winner, Mr. Cruz, but instead commented that “Mr. Trump didn’t tweet today.” It would probably be fair to say that by reporting on a sub-media like Twitter, the major media outlets helped create Mr. Trump.
The serious structural divisions that exist in American society was at the heart of this election
Supporters standing in line to get into a rally for candidate Clinton. Approximately 3,000 people attended. (August 1, 2016, Omaha, Nebraska)
This election exposed how serious the extent of the divisions are in American society. These divisions are not simply a problem between different classes of economic groups, or the political establishment and the general public, but also extend to between people with liberal values and conservative values. It is also not only just a question of religious ethics. For example, President Obama tried to make advances in regards to gun control, and the areas where this is supported, like the East Coast and the West Coast of the US, coincided with the areas where Mrs. Clinton received the most votes in this election. In contrast, areas that are against gun control, like the Midwest, were areas that voted more for Trump.
Bringing together this divided America was going to be a massive task for whoever became the next president. There is still a lot of anti-Trump feeling, and in response to that he has begun to soften his stance on some of the more extreme policies that he advocated during the election, but this in turn has caused a backlash from Trump supporters. Those in the political world, economic world and journalists have calmed down from their momentary hysterical reaction, and have turned towards watching Mr. Trump’s actions attentively, but the feelings of the citizens have not been so easily calmed. The populist, Mr. Trump will have his abilities severely tested from here on in.
In Japan, there is an ideal use of the Internet in elections that suits Japan
However, there was a very interesting portal site during the 2016 Upper house election, in which the voting age had been lowered to 18 years. This site set up a service that listed and summarized the election news and, within that, created specialized additional sites that provided information tailored to the perspectives of 18 year olds. In Japanese elections, where there are numerous political parties, the main points at issue are not very clear, and the period of campaigning time is also short, I think this site demonstrated a possible use of the internet as an effective means for information gathering. Because perspectives differ according to age groups, accurately collecting information that suits these perspectives from mass media, like newspapers and television, is extremely difficult. I’m focusing on this application as I think it may provide the opportunity for the formation of an ideal way of using the internet in elections that suits Japan.
* The contents of articles on M's Opinion are based on the personal ideas and opinions of the author and do not indicate the official opinion of Meiji University.
Associate Professor, School of Information and Communication, Meiji University
Contemporary American politics, Information and communications policy
Study of the mechanism of communications and broadcasting regulatory reform in contemporary America, Comparative study of election movements using the Internet in Japan, America, South Korea and Taiwan
Main books and papers:
◆ “Social media no fukyu ni tomonau America senkyo campaign ni okeru henka – 2014 nen chukan senkyo o jirei ni” (Changes of American Election Campaigns Using Social Media: The 2014 Midterm Election) The Journal of Socio-Informatics No. 4 Vol. 3, 2016, pp. 31–46
“An Analysis of the Campaign Context in the U.S.: How did Political Parties Use Social Media in the 2014 Midterm Election Campaign?” Journal of Socio-Informatics, Vol.9, No.1 Sep. 2016, pp.16-28.
◆ “Net senkyo ga kaeru seiji to shakai – Nichibeikan ni miru arata na ‘kokyoken’ no sugata” (How politics and society are being changed by elections using the Internet: The form of a new “public domain” as seen in Japan, America and South Korea) (Co-edited, Keio University Press, 2013)
◆ “Tea Party undo no kenkyu – America hoshushugi no henyo” (Tea Party Movement: The Transformation of American Conservatism) (Co-edited NTT Publishing, 2012)
◆ “Internet ga kaeru senkyo – Beikan hikaku to nihon no tenbo” (How the Internet is changing elections: A comparison of America and South Korea and the outlook for Japan) (Co-edited, Keio University Press, 2011)
◆ “America gendai seiji no kozu – Ideology tairitsu to sono yukue” (The Composition of Contemporary American Politics: The Clash of Ideologies and Future Directions) (Co-edited, University of Tokyo Press, 2009)
◆ “Gendai America no telecommunication seisaku katei – Universal service kikin no kaikaku” (Telecommunications Policy Process in Contemporary America: A Reform of the Universal Service Fund) (Keio University Press, 2008, Received the 24th Telecom Social Science Award from the Telecommunications Advancement Foundation), etc.