Washington: As the US presidential election neared a nail-biting close on Tuesday, both candidates took to Twitter, Facebook and Reddit to make a final plea for votes, capping a huge social media push to the polls.
Americans flocked to social networks all day to post photographic proof they had cast their ballots, with 22% of voters using Twitter, Facebook and others to announce who they voted or planned to vote for, one study found.
“I’m checking in because polls will start closing in this election in just a few hours, and I need you to vote,” US President Barack Obama said on social news site Reddit—one of several social media pushes for votes by the incumbent.
Reddit is a widely used website that allows users to rank posted information according to whether they like it or not. Obama conducted a much-publicized online chat with the public on the site in August.
“I voted for you. Best of luck tonight Mr. President,” one netizen named “WordSlinger81” wrote under Obama’s post.
Republican challenger Mitt Romney, meanwhile, appealed to his 1.7 million Twitter followers in a post retweeted 2,357 times.
“With your help, we will turn our country around and get America back on the path to prosperity. Please vote today,” he said late Tuesday.
Campaigns, celebrities and others have used social networks extensively to try to persuade people to vote and even beat the record 2008 turnout, when two-thirds of US voters cast a ballot.
On Tuesday, photos abounded on Twitter of people proudly sporting their “I voted” badges and some also posted shots of their ballot papers—which is illegal in some states.
“Just cast my vote & my grandpa would be so proud!”, @She_Weezy2012 tweeted, posting a picture of an “I Voted” sticker on her grey jumper, complete with the #ivoted hashtag, which was being used by hundreds of Twitter users.
Wearing aviator sunglasses and a black cap, singer Lenny Kravitz also waded into the fray, sticking his “I voted today!” badge on his finger in a photo on his Twitter account.
Facebook itself posted messages at the top of people’s news feeds on Tuesday showing users which friends were voting in the election and urging them to do the same by clicking an “I’m a voter” button.
On a separate page, a real-time map of the US lit up in various areas as soon as a person clicked the button, with a counter clocking up the millions of Facebook voters.
Two-thirds of these were women, according to Facebook statistics, while the top 10 most mentioned terms in the US on the social network were election-related, with “vote”, “Obama”, “election” and “Romney” among them.
In a study, the Pew Research Center found that 22 %of respondents in a representative sample of 1,011 adults said they had let people know who they voted for or planned to vote for on social networking sites.
The survey also found some 25% of Obama supporters had publicly acknowledged their choice, while 20% of Romney backers had done so.
Nearly one-third of voters had been encouraged to vote for Obama or Romney via posts on social media, while one-fifth had tried to convince others to cast their ballot on social networks.
Twitter, meanwhile, reported that Obama was mentioned more in tweets posted by people in key swing states than Romney was. Mid-afternoon, netizens were posting more than 11,000 election-related tweets per minute, it added.
Some enthusiastic netizens put up photos voting with their children—an initiative backed by first lady Michelle Obama, who has encouraged Americans to take their kids to the polls so they get an idea of the workings of democracy.
Others took to Twitter to point out irregularities. Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams posted a photo of a polling station in Philadelphia that had a huge painting of Obama on its wall complete with the word “hope”.
Electioneering is not allowed at polling places in some states, and he later updated followers with a picture of the same Obama mural covered up by several pieces of paper, saying it was still “not good enough”.