Talking Online Politics With Bill McIntyre, Part 1
While it may not be fair to say that the advent of online electioneering has transformed the way political campaigns are run in 2008, the myriad online communication options available to this year's presidential candidates has captured the attention of the media.
From blogs to social networking to viral videos, the news is filled with references to the latest in online campaigning. But will these online strategies win the presidential election for one candidate?
To answer this question and others, eM+C Weekly spoke with Bill McIntyre, executive vice president of Washingtion, D.C.-based liberal think-tank Grassroots Enterprise.
eM+C: How important has online campaigning become?
Bill McIntyre: Online campaigning used to be the cherry on top of the cake, but now we're finding it's actually the main ingredient. Television still is the best way to send a message to a broad audience, especially to the undecided vote. But the impact of television is decreasing. It's also a passive audience. There's really no way for the audience to provide any kind of feedback.
Online, the reach is really more personal and much more quantifiable, and it's a far superior method of actual engagement. Online is by far the best for reaching your base of support, organizing [people] and getting them to do things for you -- fundraise, canvas, take action and write letters. The online campaign will deliver activists who will make money and canvas neighborhoods and create buzz and bodies while the TV will reach undecided voters with persuasive messages.
eM+C: Does a high degree of online engagement translate into actual votes?
BM: Up until this point, it never has in the general election. This might be the first election where it happens though, because online interaction has translated into real votes in the primaries. The funny thing about online campaigning is that there can be a lot of activity without much action.
Early adopters of online technology and the use of things like Facebook and social media have typically been the high school/college and early professional career folks. Historically, though, college students haven't been the best at turning out to vote. If [Sen. Barack] Obama wins by solid margins and there's a demonstrated, major jump in African-American turnout, low-income turnout, undecided turnout and college-age student turnout, that could be directly attributed not just to his inspirational words or platform, but also because he leveraged a very successful online effort as part of his campaign.
Next week, eM+C Weekly will run Part II of this Q-and-A with Bill McIntyre, where he discusses how the presumptive nominees use the Internet differently, and offers best practices for online fundraising.
Reach Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.