Did @MayorEmanuel influence the election?

First off, this is the last you’ll hear from me on this topic. It has become completely overblown, overhyped nonsense. A Colbert Show appearance and money donated to a great charity notwithstanding, even Dan thinks this has gotten out of hand.

But before we close the book on this, I want to address something in DeRo’s post that had been nagging at me. This part:

“I would have voted for [Emanuel] just because of that fake Twitter account,” one of Sinker’s journalism students told the Tribune.


Reading that made me wonder: could the parody Twitter account really have swung votes Emanuel’s way? Being a journalist, I decided to ask some campaign staffer types as well as some academics who specialize in electoral politics.

Here are their responses.

“I do not believe that the Twiter account had any significant effect on the mayoral campaign.” Dick Simpson, UIC

“Rahm Emauel’s victory did not come about because of the use of twitter. I suspect that the use of twitter and similar technologies will have growing importance but not in 2011 in Chicago.” Alan R. Gitelson, Loyola University Chicago

“I think it helped to humanize Emanuel more. Also, I think Chicago voters want their Mayor to be a bit of ass-kicker, which Emanuel is known to be. Our voters are smart enough to understand that campaigning is different to governing and that Emanuel passed the important temperament test and proved his discipline and control throughout the campaign. The Mayor Emanuel twitter was an innovative, welcome and enjoyable distraction.” –Matthew Bailey, Director of Communications for 1st Ward Alderman Proco Joe Moreno

“I do not believe that social network [Twitter] had any appreciable effect upon the mayoral race. I do not see any evidence suggesting otherwise.                —Randy Kantner, Illinois GOP campaign worker

“I do not think this had any effect on the election.  It might have hurt Emanuel had he responded badly to it, making it a bigger story than it was.  However, his response was low-key and non-confrontational, so it had little impact.  I suspect that most of the people who voted had heard little, if anything, about it before the election.” John Frendreis, Loyola University Chicago

Regardless of whether he meant to or not, Dan Sinker co-opted the most genuinely scary aspects of Emanuel’s personality and made it funny. Any discussion about whether or not Emanuel could manage his well-known anger fits became secondary to the idea that, hey, it’s really funny that he drops the f-bomb all the time. It is well known among city workers that our out-going mayor likes to kill the messenger. Magically, @MayorEmanuel has not only transformed that characteristic into a virtue for the real Rahm Emanuel, but made it a joke worthy of the Colbert Report.” –Anonymous

I think the @mayoremanuel account helped motivate some undecideds to vote for rahm, rather than negatively affect his campaign. I think most followers were likely to vote regardless. The only basis for those followers to disengage from the electoral process was apathy. Rahm took the city regardless.” –Martin Ritter, Director of the 2nd Ward Democratic Organization

So there you have it. If you have an opinion on the matter, please leave it in the comments. In the end though, perhaps we shouldn’t find it problematic that Rahm might have logged a few extra votes because of the @MayorEmanuel’s shenanigans. Perhaps what we should find problematic is that of 1.4 million registered voters in Chicago, only 580,000 cast a ballot. And that’s something no Twitter account can ever fix.

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