Still Waiting for the Revolution
Today, as voters go to the polls and we await the returns of the mid-term elections, others are already hard at work strategizing, politickin' and prognosticating about the forthcoming 2008 presidential campaigns.
Yesterday's release of the Pew Research Center's study tited “The Internet and Politics: No Revolution, Yet” is great food spiced with a a good dose of reality.
According to the study, the jury is still out a dozen years after those early 1990s predictions of a 'golden era of politics' made possible by more citizen access and involvement via the internet.
Although online fundraising has increased substantially in the past six years –the record $80 million in online contributions to John Kerry's '04 campaign will surely be topped this year by an estimated $100 million in online political contributions –there are some sobering data.
ITEM: Even if the $100 million mark is reached this election cycle, that's still less than 1/20 of the $2.6 billion total that the Center for Responsive Politics claims will be spent on this year's races.
ITEM: The bulk of political money raised online is still being spent on tried-and-true outreach efforts such as tv advertising, direct mail and telephone calls. As the Pew study notes, “In other words, 21st century fundraising is paying for the same old-fashined communications mechanisms that have dominated U.S. politics since the 1960s.
ITEM: Email doesn't hold a candle to direct mail and phone calls as a channel for reaching voters. An earlier Pew survey last month found that 38% of registered voters had received phone calls about the midterm campaign, while only 15 percent had received email.
The study, which we urge any political fundraiser or anyone simply interested in civil society to read in its entirety, concludes that although internet politics fosters 'balkanization”, by and large it seems to open the door to all kinds of information whether we agree with it or not. As a consequence, the authors conclude, our politics are better off with than without the internet.
Every election cycle brings some new electronic silver bullet. This year's hot killer app is YouTube which makes every one with a mobile phonecam and an internet connection a potential producer of negative or positive campaign footage.
So, YouTube joins the parade of internet-driven innovations in politics: campaign websites in 1966, email in 1998 (the Jesse Ventura campaign), online fundraising in 2000 (John McCain), blogs and meet-ups in 2003 (Howard Dean) and internet-organized house parties in 2004. (Bush-Cheney).
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