The US Presidential Election

The first social president

In a time of “covfefe”, it’s easy to forget US presidents haven’t always been tweeting. Obama’s 2008 election campaign was a landmark moment for the impact of social media on the political process, as voters were encouraged to discuss their views online.


by Camila Rosa


Digital illustration

“This piece was inspired by the huge influence Barack Obama had on the elections. We realised that together we have the strength to transform any situation through our digital influence. We also realised that diversity is a critical element in policy-making and we can’t neglect this aspect from politics in general.”

Camila is a Brazilian Illustrator focused on translating women from an alternative perspective.

The first social President

The US Presidential election of 2008 is a landmark moment for the impact of social media on the political process. The Obama Campaign realised that the internet and social could do more than just raise money. The campaign’s use of Twitter allowed for a degree of transparency never seen before. It allowed millions to openly express their political views. It circumvented traditional media bias and had an impact on youth voter turnout: 66% of those under age 30 voted for Barack Obama making the disparity between young voters and other age groups – larger than in any presidential election since exit polling began in 1972.

Being able to spot and capitalise on how people consume new kinds of media has always been a secret weapon for gaining political power. Thomas Jefferson used newspapers to win the presidency, F.D.R. used radio to change the way he governed, J.F.K. was the first president to understand the impact of television. In the same tradition, Obama became the USA’s first social president.

What else happened in 2008?

Rickrolling begins

The cultural hijacking phenomenon starts. 18M Americans admit to being duped into watching Rick Astley’s 1987 hit.

Saved by a tweet

James Karl Buck is arrested in Egypt without charge. He tweets his followers who contact the US Embassy. Shortly after he’s released.

NASA uses Twitter

The Phoenix lander finds evidence of water on Mars. NASA uses Twitter to tell us.

Facebook surpasses MySpace

For the first time ever, Facebook has more monthly unique visitors than MySpace.