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Reality Check: How primary voters are picking candidates

Tuesday is primary day in North Carolina, and there are on-going questions about how voters are being unknowingly influenced: From the criminal investigation into Russian meddling in the last presidential election, to Congress looking into how some candidates used Facebook data without user's knowledge or permission. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

Tuesday is primary day in North Carolina, and there are on-going questions about how voters are being unknowingly influenced: From the criminal investigation into Russian meddling in the last presidential election, to Congress looking into how some candidates used Facebook data without user's knowledge or permission.

Candidates are using a variety of ways online to try to reach voters, and it can be hard to separate fact from fiction.

"Social media very difficult to get the idea across. I'll go back and look things up, and see if what they're telling me is correct," said Shelby Williams, who voted early in Buncombe County.

"Well, I do use Facebook, but I'm very skeptical because what you see usually is what they think you want to see based on what you've clicked on before," said Wendy Murphy, a Buncombe County primary voter.

"We thought social media might allow us to get more diverse perspectives. Turns out it allows us to get the same perspective, just louder," Dr. Chris Cooper, a political science Professor at Western Carolina University, said.

Cooper said social media has not played the role in politics some predicted.

"For a while, we thought maybe social media's going to help, right? Maybe this will democratize us more. It's going to expose us to more information. It's going to be less filtered. It turns out it's kind of had some of the opposite effects," Cooper said.

Youssef Bnadad, who voted for the first time, said he did research on the internet before voting, but trusted relatives more.

"I came here six years ago. I'm still feeling new to the area. When I ask my wife's family, for example, they also give me good advice about that," Bnadad said.

That was a common theme we heard from people voting early in the primary.

"My mom and dad will talk to me about it. And I'll ask them like, 'Oh, what did this person do?' They've lived here their entire lives. So, they usually know about what they're voting for," Williams said.

"I think you have to read between the lines, and if you can get out to see them, or hear them. You get a better sense in person of what they're all about, and I have met a few on the streets here and there throughout town," Murphy said.

"I know some of them at this point, but I do not know them all, and I enjoy doing that, but I haven't met as many as I would have liked," said Jim Ellis, who voted in Buncombe County.

A poll in March by Harvard University shows only 26 percent of the youngest voters, the ones who use social media the most, trust Facebook. Twenty-seven percent trust Twitter and 16 percent trust media in general.

The same poll found only 17 percent trust our current lawmakers in Congress.

"If you feel like polarization's getting worse, you're right. Polarization's the worst it's been in at least 50 years," Cooper said.

That makes it easier to know how candidates stand on issues you may care about most.

"If you know somebody's party affiliation today, you generally know where they stand on the issues. So, that's the positive part of polarization. The negative part is there's almost no compromise left in American politics," Cooper said.

Regardless of their views, the voters we spoke with shared one sentiment: They encourage people to go and vote.


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