Saturday, May 18, 2024

Student researches Trump supporter presence online

Nadia Potts presents her advanced honors project on the political right and alt-right online presence in the Alumni Conference Room on May 1.


By Kolin Kriner

Gauging the depths of politics in social media, Nadia Potts, a junior public relations and political science student, took on the challenge of an honors project. 

Potts was off on a year-long journey for her honors project, “It’s Time to Make Banana Bread: Messaging Techniques and Political Outreach to the Far-Right.” The goal of this project was to analyze far-right communications and how the political left can improve its own. 

“Seeing people enamored by extreme viewpoints in politics – sometimes even devoting their lives to them – made me wonder, how did this happen?” Potts said. 

Potts started out at SUNY Plattsburgh as only a political science major. However, in her sophomore year, she decided to take on public relations to enhance her skill in hosting events and managing campaigns, which are often associated with politics. 

With that, she decided to look into extremist conservative media.

“This project was a great way to combine both of my majors into one focus,” Potts said. “Understanding how extremism spreads is always important, both to be aware of how it impacts yourself and others, but it is especially important to look at its spread in social media.”

Her first semester working on the project, fall 2023, was mostly dedicated to doing research and lots of reading articles and books. The second semester was devoted to writing the paper for the project, which she is still working on. The total length of the paper once it is finished is estimated to be around 40 to 60 pages.

“Being able to stick with the project and to be on the home stretch is a great feeling,” Potts said.

In addition to this paper, Potts created a presentation titled “The Use of Social Media from Right to Far-Right,” which she presented May 1 in the Alumni Conference Room.

The presentation went deep into the social media communication used by people on the right as well as the far-right, which she explained as being two eras of conservative politics, one existing prior to the Trump administration and the other existing during and after. 

Potts looked into the strategies used by conservatives to be heard and how well it has worked for them, increasing their overall engagement. Conversely, Potts also used these strategies as a critique on the left’s use of social media as there is a lack of engagement and unity from the left on media platforms.

The scope of this project is intensive. However, Potts recommends it to those in the honors program. 

“I think that if you have the time to do a year-long project and can find a topic you’re willing to stick with, an honors project is a great idea,” Potts said. “They can come in any form, as long as it ends up being a big result.”

Potts’ project adviser was associate professor of public relations Michelle Ouellette. Potts noted the importance of the student’s project advisor being just as passionate as them.

“You really need to be dedicated to the subject matter to make an honors project worthwhile,” Potts said. “However, if you can find a professor to work with that encourages your growth and understanding like Professor Ouellette does, then this may be right for you.”

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