How important is digital media in the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign?

    by Mark Glaser
    December 10, 2007

    As the U.S. presidential primary season quickly approaches, the question remains just how important the Internet and new media have been in the election race. While political tracking sites such as TechPresident can show how many Facebook friends the candidates have, or how many video views they’ve had on YouTube, there isn’t a direct correlation between online popularity and actual votes. The knock against Howard Dean in 2004 was that he connected with people using online technology but couldn’t convert that into votes. But can Ron Paul turn his online success into election success? Will Barack Obama take off at the polls after his social networking prowess? How much of a correlation do you see between what happens online and what happens out in the real world when it comes to presidential politics? Share your thoughts in the comments below and I’ll run the best ones in the next Your Take Roundup.

    Tagged: comments election politics social networking
    • I think the difference is in how they motivate their online communities into election-time action. Will they create pledges that people can sign online pledging to vote for them, and then get media reminders (emails, facebook messages, sms, etc.) in the important days when ballots are actually in hand? Will they make voting more important than people have viewed it in the past (judging by turn out numbers)�if one candidate is able to get people out to vote who haven’t voted before then we will have more people in the polls with more votes for him or her. So far, I don’t think that candidates are going to see much extra push from their facebook friends or twitter followers, not until they incorporate incremental action into their plans that can add up and will more concretely motivate their “friends” to vote for them.

    • Erin

      I don’t think there is a correlation between online participation and votes–yet. I think a large part of this is that while participating online doesn’t really require too much effort, actually getting up and going out to vote does, and it’s a widely known fact that not enough Americans vote.

      While online participation may not directly affect the number of votes a politician receives, we definitely have seen that online participation translates to fundraising dollars. And this definitely impacts the polls.

    • Jacqueline K.

      Those who study the myriad of new media in politics are mystified in predicting the outcome the Internet will have on traditional U.S. election processes.

      Questions arise as to whether new media will be a revolution for garnering vociferous engagement among voters utilizing new media for fostering a more democratic debate? Or is the existence of new media within politics result into a democratic evolution and through time will enhance democracy among various publics with future innovations of media technologies?

      Many theorists agree the state of the new media, as an influential player during elections, is still in a flux. But one thing is for certain, the introduction of these new technologies is shifting the balance of power among politicans, media and citizens…ultimately granting citizens and “user-generated” content with the power to shape the political agenda.
      In the run-up to the 2008 primary elections, we are witnessing the creation of cyberdemocracy as a result to web-savvy generations of voters shifting to new virtual spaces. As a result of a greater population engaging in political discourse online, campaigns have been forced to alter traditional campaign stagecraft in order to reach these new virtual audiences. The access to back-stage information or behind the scenes exclusives is no longer restricted to the few political operates within the campaigns.

      As citizens embracing the deluge of political activity going on online, political campaigns and candidates are sensing the tides changing in the balance of power of messaging. As a result, many campaigns are now bypassing the once existing gates of mainstream media and experimenting with new means for directly communicating with voters. In a recent vlog, posted on YouTube, presidential candidate John Edwards said the greatest thing about the Internet is that we can directly talk to voters, without having to go through the third party of the media. (Amanda Congdon, Interview March 23, 2006).

      It will be interesting to see the impact citizens will have in what has been dubbed the “YouTube Elections.”

    • Richard

      I think online promotion plays a role, but this election cycle Americans are tired of politics in general. Integrity and Honesty are the only things that are going to inspire people to vote this year. Apathy is rampant, the Democrats took control of Congress with many promises but no actions. Our Republican President has demolished our international reputation. Special Interests rule our nation, and huge corporate conglomerates lobby for laws that the taxpayer has to subsidize. The American Dream that we once envisioned as children is slipping away. Our national debt is 9 trillion dollars, and our dollar is slipping in value. Who is addressing these issues? Thank God for digital media, or else we would be voting for the ones that corporate America tell us to vote for. And if we don’t vote Ron Paul in this next year, in 4 more years the internet will be controlled by these same corporate interests. They won’t take the chance again for people to have a true voice in elections. Right now digital media is the only media that is open and gasping for it’s last breath in the arena of politics. America needs CPR and we’re looking for a Doctor. Is there a Doctor in the House?

    • ROBERT

      In the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign,Time will tell .But i see eyes open as never before. Americans are acting as Americans again,They are alive and fulled with hope thats not been there in many years.How important is digital media,ask anyone that was blind but now can see.

    • Peter Liu

      The internet has provided us with access to information we would otherwise not have. The “news” are no longer reports news, it serves primarily as entertainment. With a few powerful companies owning the majority of the new outlet, the American public no longer get a diverse point of view. Fox News anyone? I find it very disappointing and worrisome.

      This is especially troublesome because the “news” affects how voters vote. If the voters are not informed, instead get a one sided view, they will vote based on the media’s influence. It will have the illusion of being in a democratic society. The internet levels the playing fields and I think it’s a good thing as it provide a voice of dissent.

    • 25 years ago Knight Ridder News joined with AT&T to test the market for interactive computer network delivery of content using a technology then called “videotex” under the “Viewtron” trademark. I was the person initially hired to architect much of it due to my background with the PLATO network (Ray Ozzie, Bill Gates’ replacement at MS, was a colleague of mine at PLATO). At that time, the market studies indicated people wanted more customer-provided content. I knew this already from PLATO where I had been working on a mass market version — so I had a pretty good idea what to do.

      The problem was the editorial authorities didn’t want that kind of content. I was actually told “Jim, we see videotex as we the institutions providing you the people with content and services.” That’s as near an exact quote as I can give after 25 years.

      I resigned, but not before I wrote up a little essay called “Videotex Networking and the American Pioneer” which never got distributed, containing predictions of blogs such as this one, and the following statement about political movements created by the networks of the future:

      …the prophecies of a despotic, cashless-society are quite likely to become a reality.  My opinion is that this nightmare will eventually be realized but not before the American pioneers have had a chance to reach each other and organize.  I base this hope on the fact that the first people to participate in the videotex network will represent some of the most pioneering of Americans, since videotex is a new territory”.

      I expected then, and still expect, that the reaction to this grassroots movement will unmask the true character of the “managerial elite” that has arisen during the 20th century’s centralization of capital-intensive mass media — and it will be far uglier than anyone, including the elite itself, will have anticipated.

    • Gabriel

      My best guess: There will be no correlation whatsoever between measures of Web support and election results.

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