More research is needed to be able to fully understand the role that social media plays in elections, specifically in local elections. Candidates need to understand how it works and how they can effectively use this new communication medium. By exploring Diffusion of Innovation Theory, Social Information Processing Theory, and the Two-Way Symmetrical Model of communications this study sought to answer one overarching question: how should a candidate employ social media in a local election? This qualitative, single case study explores the 2014 recall and general election in Yorba Linda, California. Councilman Tom Lindsey and candidate Matt Palmer are the primary subjects of study. Observations were made through analysis of documentation, interviews, and participant and direct observation. The researcher was employed as the campaign manager for both Lindsey's and Palmer's campaigns. The findings support the use of social media in local campaigns on a case by case basis. Determining use depends on the demographics of the voters and the abilities of the candidate. The data suggests that social media needs to be part of comprehensive strategy that includes traditional communication tools. Observations from the case study illustrate the need for candidates to engage in two-way communication that is monitored and regulated. This study begins to establish social media as a tool that candidates can use to inexpensively reach voters in a way that showcases the candidate's personality and allows them to connect on a personal level with constituents. Social media will play a role in politics at all levels.



College and Department

Fine Arts and Communications; Communications



Date Submitted


Document Type





Yorba Linda, Tom Lindsey, general election, recall election, social media, diffusion of innovation theory, social information processing theory, two-way symmetrical model of communications



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Communication Commons