Justin Amash: The Facebook Politician

Elected to Congress at just 30 years old, Republican Justin Amash became the second youngest U.S. Representative in recent history with his victory in the 2010 United States House of Representatives elections in Michigan. Amash was among the first wave of politicians to begin using social media as a way of directly connecting with his constituents.

1024px-Justin_Amash_Gage SKidmore, Peoria, AZ wikimedia commons
Justin Amash (photo credit: Gage Skidmore https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Justin_Amash_(28430150180).jpg)

This early adaptation of incorporating digital media into politics contributed to Amash’s sizeable election victory in the 3rd district of Michigan. Amash beat his opponent, Patrick Miles, with 60% of the votes, compared with Miles’ 37% of the vote.

In 2008, before working in Washington, Amash was settling into Michigan’s capital of Lansing as a newly elected member of the Michigan House of Representatives. In 2009 Amash began using his official Facebook fan page to post directly from the floor of representatives about the voting process in real time. His posts would generally include:

  • What the vote was about
  • How he had voted
  • The final result of the vote

This kind of digital transparency allowed an online dialogue to take place, with Amash communicating with his followers, as well as his followers interacting with one another.

This approach put a spotlight on the young politician and Amash has said that before the publicity he had not considered running for a higher office that early in his career. The positive feedback he received propelled him to use his increasingly popular Facebook page as the place where he formally announced his candidacy as a 2010 representative to Congress.

Since his election Amash has won re-election 3 more times, each time using social media as part of his campaigning.

A longtime Republican, in the 2010 elections Amash leaned conservative on most issues:

  • Anti-Abortion
  • Pro-Border Control
  • Pro-Second Amendment

It appears that as of 2017 Amash continues to hold these same conservative viewpoints.

Justin_Amash_official_photo Wiki Commons
Justin Amash Official Photo (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Justin_Amash_official_photo.jpg)

Amash began his 2010 congressional campaign on Facebook, eventually adding Twitter and YouTube to his repertoire. At the time Facebook was the more popular online social site of the three and Amash spent the majority of his online energy here. At the end of the campaign Amash’s Facebook page had a little over 13,000 likes. The majority of his wall content advertised various campaign and meet and greet events, as well as posts linking back to local media reports.

The campaign’s Twitter and YouTube pages had nowhere near the reach the Facebook page had. Amash’s YouTube page had less than 30 subscribers and only 10 uploads, most being short, campaign created promotional videos.

The Twitter page, with fewer than 500 followers, was generally used to post content linking back to the Facebook page.

Compare that with 2017, where Amash has more than 128K likes on his Facebook page and more than 132K Twitter followers. It appears he no longer has an active YouTube page, but that may change during the next campaign season.

Since the beginning of his social media use Amash has generally been the only person to post on his Facebook and Twitter pages. It was his voice the people were hearing when he first began using Facebook, at the time he allowed no one in his cabinet access to these pages. This has undoubtedly changed as his title and responsibilities have grown, but the effective use of delivering his own message in his own words was certainly a strong strategy to undertake.

When Justin Amash used Facebook in 2009 to reach out directly to his voters, at a time when social media was not yet such an integral part of the political realm, he was unknowingly jumping onto the trend of elections yet to come. This timely move was a big factor in his 2010 House of Representatives election win, as well as the success he’s seen since.

It can be argued that Amash’s current position in politics is a direct result of his use of social media. Amash received substantial positive feedback from the public right away when he began using Facebook to communicated his actions to the community. The voters felt, and continue to feel a sense of trust with the young politician due to Amash’s willingness to keep people up-to-date on local political happenings, as well as explain his actions and decisions regarding policies and legislation.