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The Globe and Mail

All hail the United States’ new Twitter president

Pollster Nik Nanos.

The Globe and Mail

Nik Nanos is The Globe and Mail's pollster and chairman of Nanos Research.

All hail the new Twitter President of the United States. Ahem.

Donald Trump is a number of things, including the first U.S. president to have never served in either political office or the military. Prior to Mr. Trump, Dwight D. Eisenhower, the general who led the Allies in the Second World War, was the most recent president who did not have previous political experience.

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How did this happen?

It was the perfect storm: a Democratic Party looking to extend a third presidential term; an America still scarred by the Great Recession and the housing bust; and, very importantly, Twitter.

Whether one loves or hates it, Twitter helped Mr. Trump get elected. In an interview with 60 Minutes, Mr. Trump said his millions of followers on social media "helped me win all of these races where they're spending much more money than I spent." In the process, he smashed conventional wisdom, the Republican Party establishment and the ambitions of Hillary Clinton.

Even though Canadians were outside observers, they were part of the Twitter dialogue circling around the Presidential campaign and particularly Trump. In a recent survey by Nanos for Signal Leadership Communication, Canadian respondents said they felt that Trump had won the Twitter war. Forty-four per cent said Trump was effective at using Twitter compared to only 5 per cent who thought Clinton was effective at using Twitter.

Respondents were seven times more likely to say that Trump used Twitter to effectively attack Clinton than vice versa. Set aside the TV ad campaigns, the mainstream media – Twitter was the Trump muscle that activated, motivated and delivered the Trump nation on election day.

The survey contacted 1,000 Canadians through phone and online between Oct. 27 and 30.

The implications for Mr. Trump and democracy are numerous.

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First, with Twitter as an enabler, Mr. Trump does not owe his victory to the Republican establishment, big money or the media. He will likely be America's most independent president, unfettered by political or business interests.

Second, with Twitter as a platform, Mr. Trump was able to shout back at the naysayers who questioned his personal integrity, ethics, business track record and truthfulness. In the Twitter election, the person with the most followers and greatest network shouts down all others.

Third, with Twitter as his activator, Trump did not need the machinery of a party to deliver the vote. Americans, angry at Washington, tired of the Democratic Party, unenthused about Ms. Clinton, voted with their feet to deliver punishment to the establishment through Mr. Trump.

Fourth, Trump turned the idea that money buys elections on its head. He has shown that anger politics – amplified by Twitter and other digital channels – is the low-cost way to win elections. In an election where the Clinton campaign bombarded the airwaves through paid advertising, his controversial tweets kept his followers engaged and motivated.

The lesson from the U.S. presidential election: Whether you are satisfied or depressed with the outcome, expect more Trump-like copycat politicians. Now that America is firmly in the grip of Trump and Twitter, the key thing to watch is how this may spread to other democracies.

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