Elections become webified

By Jamie Hufnagle
February 15, 2007

Traditional media has been put on the back burner as politicians gear up to conquer the world of tech-savvy voters in the upcoming 2008 election.

“The Web will be playing a bigger role than ever in the 2008 campaign, so much so that for the first time, it will actually change the outcome of the election,” Joe Trippi said in an article from Yahoo.com. Trippi was in charge of running Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign and utilized the internet in order to raise funds and rally voters.

A recent survey that was conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project reveals that twice as many Americans turned to the Internet as their primary source of news during the November vote as compared to the 2002 elections.

“I think the internet will help the election a lot because it is such a big part of this generation,” Caitlin Hunter, a senior education major, said.

New York Senator Hillary Clinton first announced her campaign in an online video and has since conducted a series of online chats.

There was a video launched on Youtube.com the night before John Edwards made his formal announcement for candidacy. His official announcement was also streamed live through his website.

Democratic senator Barack Obama also posted a video saying he had taken the first step on the road he hopes will lead to the White House.

Rochelle Beaser, lecturer in history, worries that issues critical to the health and welfare of our country can become overwhelmed by “superficial silliness.” Beaser references the coverage of Senator Clinton’s off-key singing of the national anthem posted online.

“If a webified election brings more people into the discussion, I think that’s great for our democracy. If more access to what the candidates say and do does not lead to more interest in issues of our national survival, I worry even more about the future,” Beaser said.

The use of the Internet allows candidates to deliver their message without the immediate follow-up questions that usually proceed from a press conference. It also allows candidates to prepare the exact message that they want to get across as compared to the unpredictability of a live announcement.

Dr. Darryl Mace, assistant professor of history and political science, thinks the use of internet in the election will lead to increased voting.

“Politicians are increasingly using web sites like MySpace to announce their candidacies and disseminate information to a younger audience who may or may not read newspapers or watch the news,” Mace said. “However, negative information about candidates, for instance Howard Dean’s angry speech during the 2004 primary, receives wide play on the internet. So, candidates need to be more careful about what they do and say, because they are being scrutinized all the time and by various people.”

Jamie Hufnagle

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