Digital Divas: Women, Politics and the Social Network

By Alexis Gelber

Alexis GelberAlexis Gelber

Shorenstein Center Goldsmith Fellow,
Spring 2011
Formerly, Newsweek magazine

Read the full paper (PDF).


In the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama emerged as the champion of new media by using social networking tools in innovative ways to turn on and turn out young voters. Since then, some of most visible and creative users of social media in the political realm have been women:

  • After humiliation and defeat in 2008, Sarah Palin resurfaces as a powerful force in the Republican Party through Facebook and Twitter.
  • Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill is featured in Time magazine’s 2009 “Top 10 Celebrity Twitter Feeds” for her microblogs about her family, her diet and CEO bank pay that she writes herself (as she noted in a tweet).
  • Hillary Clinton digitizes diplomacy as Secretary of State after a lackluster new media campaign in her run for the presidency; Huffington Post calls her “Obama’s Unsung Tech Guru.”
  • Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota propels herself into a role as Congressional Tea Party Caucus leader and presidential contender, streaming video on her Facebook page and creating an iPhone app for supporters.
  • Tea Party organizers—many of them stay-at-home mothers with young children—use Twitter and other social networking platforms to connect conservative activists in a movement that upends the 2010 midterm elections.

In addition, surveys indicate that women outnumber men on social networking sites. And academic research shows that social media may play to women’s preferred styles of communication.

Read the full paper (PDF).