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The Internet/Politics Gap

Posted @ 4:01 pm by Tim Ross | Category: Community & Social Media, Marketing Analytics | 0 Comments

Much has been made of the effectiveness of Barack Obama’s (and Democrats’ more generally) efforts in leveraging the Internet to further their cause.  By every meaningful metric (fundraising, traffic, volunteers,  etc.) Obama’s advantage ranges from significant to enormous.  If Obama was Roadhouse’s Dalton, then McCain’s web team was like the streettoughs at the Double Deuce.

As someone who has worked in both Internet and politics, I wanted to offer a non-partisan explanation for the gap.

1) DEMOGRAPHICS
The Internet audience demographics slant towards young voting populations, and younger voters are much more frequently Democrats than Republicans.

2) TECHNICAL SOPHISTICATION
Beyond the advantage in audience size, younger Internet users are much more sophisticated and active than older Internet users as measured by blog readership, social networking, etc.

3) OFFLINE VS. ONLINE
Republicans have been more effective in leveraging offline vehicles (e.g. organizing through churches, communication through direct mail and talk radio, fundraising through big dollar donor events,etc.)  As such, when the Internet emerged, Democrats had more pent up demand for a vehicle through which to organize, communicate, and fundraise.  It turns out, not surprisingly, that the Internet is simply more synergistic and effective than the offline channels.

4) INSURGENCY
The vast majority of the fast growth years for the Internet have coincided with Bush’s tenure in office.  Organization happens faster around opposition which has benefited the “out-of-office” Democrats.  If Obama wins the election, expect significant gains from the Republicans online.

These 4 factors are currently working in combination to heavily benefit Democratic candidates.  Is it sustainable? …I’m not sure.  But it will be interesting to watch.

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