Digitally United We Stand, Divided We Fall: How Does the Digital Divide Influence the Way Americans Vote?
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The results of the 2016 Presidential Elections will go down as one of the most unforgettable moments in U.S. history. Regardless of which side of the political spectrum Americans fell under, President Trump’s win came as a shock to millions of citizens across the nation. Both positive and negative reactions flooded the Internet, as scholars and political experts scrambled to understand how the exit polls that predicted a win for Hillary Clinton could have gone so wrong. For citizens who did not passionately share their responses online, they fell outside of the intense political discussions. It was not because they lacked a voice of opinion, but because they lacked the digital tools to do so. Over 40 million Americans were estimated to not have access to the Internet in 2016, blocking them from not only engaging in political discussions online, but also from applying to jobs, gaining an education, getting access to basic governmental services, and staying informed. This thesis is about exploring the societal impacts of the digital divide, which is the disparity that exists between the “have” versus “have not” people with access to the Internet. In attempt to study the digital divide in the U.S specifically, this thesis will focus on comparing Internet access levels to the voting results of the 2008, 2012, and 2016 Presidential Elections by U.S county. The ultimate goal of this thesis is to discern the larger takeaways on how the digital divide can impact voting outcomes in Presidential Elections, and, as a result, further drive political polarization in the America. Thus, this thesis assesses the theories and methodologies of the digital divide to understand its greater influence, and attempts to present potential solutions as to how to “heal” the digital and political divide.