Political Campaigns Online
Baumgartner, JC & Francia, PL 2008, ‘Conventional wisdom and American elections: exploding myths, exploring misconceptions’, Rowman and Littlefield Publishers Inc., Lanham, Maryland.
If the discussion about political campaigns in this book will be summarized in a couple of words, the World Wide Web is the revolutionizing factor behind modern political campaigns. Baumgartner and Francia call this online political strategy as the e-campaign. As early as 1998, many of the congressional candidates have appreciated the scope of influence of the internet. That year, two-thirds of the candidates already created their websites to make their virtual presence known to the people. By this time, the exponential rate of growth in politically-oriented websites is not at all surprising. Political strategies are shifting to the online realm. One of the reasons is the effectiveness of such medium (as seen in the Obama campaign in 2008 and many others).
Apparently, it also appears that the e-campaign is not the usual unidirectional information dissemination the voting public is used to. The advent of the internet technology made political campaigns an interactive activity between political candidates and the people. Using the internet, the candidates could forward their platforms and the voting public could respond to the information through the same medium utilized by the politicians. It is a very democratic type of medium—and relatively affordable as well. There is no doubt as to the reason why politicians choose this medium the most nowadays.
Best, SJ & Krueger, BS 2005, ‘Analyzing the representatives of internet political participation’, Political Behavior.**
The author began with an observation that the internet has now become a mainstream medium for political campaigning. With the sheer number of politicians who have online websites and are concerned about their virtual visibility, it is obvious that this medium is indeed the most utilized vessel for interacting with the voting public.
As the article progresses, the author introduced a new issue about the use of internet and the participatory culture of the audience in this type of medium—or for any other media for that matter. Best and Krueger states that the mere use of a medium is not the only factor that influences interaction between the voting public and the political candidates but also the public’s prior know-how and expertise about political issues. Given the same kind of media access for all people, certain individuals will still not respond to political issues if they are not familiar or aware of it. But all things being equal, the internet allows people to participate in civic activities and political assessments with less inconvenience compared to traditional forms of participation such as via snail mail (wherein the person must write a letter and mail this to the recipient) and through calling the office of the political candidate concerned.
Howard, PN 2005, ‘Deep democracy, thin citizenship: the impact of digital media in political campaign strategy’, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.
In this article, the author highlights how the internet changed the landscape of information dissemination. Instead of simply producing information and disseminating it in a unilateral fashion, the internet has granted everyone who has access to the World Wide Web to capability to create his/her own information and publish it in an instant. This medium allows people to become both producers and consumers of information—with no permanent label of being a consumer or producer on each person. These labels easily shift and change as one person assumes various roles in his online interactions, whether with fellow voters or with political candidates.
Furthermore, Howard touches on a particularly interesting topic which is about the control in online media. Since the voting public demands more of a politician’s virtual presence, it is possible to interact directly with the candidate—a feat in the online medium that could either make or break a candidate. The concern of political strategists is to give the demands of the public by exposing the candidates to the virtual populace and yet shelter the same politician from queries that might be beyond the politician’s comprehension at that point in time. The issue of control in an uncontrollable medium is a very interesting topic to discuss as an additional analysis of this research paper.
Trent, JS & Friedenberg, RV 2008, ‘Political campaign communication: principles and practices, Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc., Lanham, Maryland.
This book is a run-down of the different factors that affect the successfulness of a political campaign. The first chapter of the book deals with basic principle of political campaigns which includes its importance, functions, strategies, and the different channels that could be utilized to reach the desired audience: the voters. As early as the first chapter, the authors already discussed how technology re-shapes the political campaign strategies of political parties in the United States. This specific discussion about technology is a critical analysis of how the perception and strategies of politicians are being changes gradually by the arrival of various media such as the television in the 1950’s and the internet at present.
Political campaign communications will be a very useful book in this research. It will be used as the main jump off point for the discussion of political campaigns in general and how technology is utilized by political candidates during the campaign period. Consequently, in the last chapter, there also is a discussion about the internet’s role in political campaigns today. This is a more magnified analysis of online political campaigns as it discusses the difference of first and second-tier content and how these content propel a candidates popularity among the voting public.
Scher, RK 1997, ‘The modern political campaign: Mudslinging, bombast and the vitality of American politics, M.E. Sharpe, Inc., Armonk, N.Y.
Using a resource which is more than 10 years old is not accepted in most researches. However, the researcher found this book very useful after reading its content. Using this book, the researcher would be able to make use of comparisons between campaigns without the advent of the internet and campaigns nowadays. The 1996 Presidential elections was the latest political activity before the publication of this book and so the author, Richard Scher, was able to provide numerous accounts on how presidential candidates praised or denounced media coverage of political sorties. It also featured some politician’s sentiments about the apparent power of the media in building or destroying the reputation of a political candidate. In fact, from the title of this book alone, it seems as if most of the information contained in this book points to the loopholes and the abuse of power of the media—as seen from the perspective of the candidates.
In a nutshell, Scher points out that the media has the task of underscoring what the politicians do in their political campaigns. The author believes that the media is only a channel, a vessel of information. The media broadcasts new and information for the world to see but it does not invent any fact that did not happen during the sorties.
Benoit, WL 2007, ‘Communication in political campaigns’, Peter Lang Publishing Inc., New York, NY.
Since the topic of this research is about the online medium in political campaigns, this book by Benoit will be very useful in this research. Chapter 3 is especially dedicated to discussing the role of various media in campaign discourse. This analyzes online campaigns vis-à-vis television, direct mailing, radio spots, and debates. Comparison of various media is very important in determining which medium must be used by a particular political candidate given specific circumstances such as the position a candidate is aiming for and the demographics of the voting population he wants to reach. For example, using the newspaper to target the younger voting population will not be as effective as using online or television advertisements since most of the young people nowadays prefer accessing information through visual means such as the televisions and computers.
With the use of this book, the researcher will be able to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each medium and how online advertisement could possible help candidates with limited campaign budget reach the target voting population without shelling out too much money. This book indeed provides a wealth of information necessary to create a well-grounded research about the hype of online political campaigns.
Guzetta,SJ 2006, ‘The campaign manual: A definitive study of the modern political campaign process’, 7th edition, Political Publications, Alexandria, VA.
Authored by an expert political campaign consultant, who is also a member of the American Association of Political Consultants, this manual is indeed the book to live by for aspiring politicians. It does not only outline campaign strategies and winning characteristics of a favorable politician, this manual also details the media characteristic of the district which the politician wants to target. Media characteristic is defined as the “commercially available methods of communicating with the electorate” (Guzetta 2006, p. 105). This media factor is important in making the most out of the media being used to reach out to the voting public.
Without studying the media characteristic of a district, it is possible that the financial resources of a political candidate is simple being wasted on useless advertisements which the people do not have access to anyway. This simple factor makes a big difference in political campaigns. Even politicians who have the biggest funds for political sorties might lose to a politician with a smaller budget. This manual written by Guzetta is a good reminder that it is not solely the number of advertisement that matter but also how many of these advertisements actually reach the intended audience. The keyword in this political battle is the proper utilization of resources.
Seidman,SA 2008, ‘Posters, propaganda, and persuasion, in election campaigns around the world and throughout history’, Peter Lang Publishing Inc., New York, NY.
Most online political campaigns zero in on the websites created by the supporters of a particular candidate. But Seidman provides a scenario wherein two different media could converge to create a new breed of political campaign. In this case, the main thrust of the book is the creation of posters and how this particular campaign paraphernalia disseminates information to the voting public and how it could help a politician win an election. But under the subsection on technology and how it adapts to the changes of the popular media, posters are now being posted online—even sold online to supporters who would like to donate funds to their political bets. Compare this process to how posters are being used 10 years ago, indeed, even print media are adapting to the technological advancements in our society.
Aside from posters, the political parties of presidential candidates also thought of developing applications which web users could use to create their own buttons, posters, pins, bumper stickers, and so on. Not only does the internet give the people the democracy they are craving for, the political parties are also spending less money on printing campaign paraphernalia because people could already print their own stickers in support of their favored candidates.
Political campaigns and most importantly elections are important aspects of political life. Elections enable patriotic citizens to actively participate in selecting a future leader for their country (Trent et al 2008). The process of democracy is firmly entrenched in the U.S and the political election campaign makes an integral part of the democratic system.
According to Trent et al (2008), the electoral process enables individuals to determine how their interests are going to be met in future. This includes a vetting process in which individuals vote based on the individual who supports their needs. Trent et al (2008) also sates that the voting process and elections validate an individual’s right to power.
Advertising in Campaigns
Advertising is a vital factor in raising campaign costs and in publicizing an individual who is campaigning (Trent et al 2008). In the year 2000 the republican candidate for presidency George .W. Bush is said to have spent $134 million on television advertising alone. He is recorded to have spent 42% more than what President Clinton spent during his reelection campaign in 1996.Advertising is referred to as the secondary level of campaigning and is said to assist voters in making up their mind as to the proper candidate to vote for based on the aspect of the campaign.
Architects of modern day campaigns are said to prefer to use messages that appeal mostly to the heart and voters emotions other than messages that appeal to the brain (Scher,1997).This is the main reason as to why campaigns today tend to focus on the candidates and their image by using specific views and words that bring out emotional content(Scher,1997).In the long run the image created by the architects of modern day campaigns are usually separate from the actual character of the individual.
The emotional appeal is also said to be used as a tool against an opponent by tarnishing their image to the voters (Scher, 1997).For instance in 1988, republicans portrayed Mike Dukaki as a person who cared less about his people by showing pictures of a polluted harbor. These photos said a lot more about their opponent than if they had printed position papers which no one would like to read.
Technology and political campaigns
Technology has also been known to play a big role in the area of politics. According to Trent et al (2008), the addition of radio and television in advertising brought forth a number of changes with regards to how the political campaigns were carried out. With the 21st century, campaigns became even more sophisticated. For instance the old electoral map frequently used in both statewide and presidential campaigns has become substituted with an outline of the major media markets.
The new map helps in making decisions that are crucial to a candidate’s campaign (Trent et al 2008). For instance the where the candidate travels and identifies new political regions. Furthermore it gives a candidate an idea of the exact demographic audiences that are the targets of the candidate’s new campaighn.Due to this factor media consultants are hired long before the campaigns begin.
Technological advancements have also helped candidates to be able to reach more people in a short while and thus be able to garner widespread support during their campaigns (Trent et al 2008). The internet has become a major technological platform In advertising since 2000.During this period the Bush campaign included an internet pop up banner that allowed viewers to calculate how his tax plan could affect them (Trent et al, 2008).During this time Senator McCain also used his website to discuss personal war stories. At the same time Senator McCain also raised $6 million on the internet during the initial phase of his campaigns.
In light of the above facts one may wonder why the internet is a valued source for advertising and campaigning. The answer to this question is simple (Trent et al, 2008). The internet is referred to as a cost effective means of advertising. It has also been credited as a valuable source of fund raising. The internet also provides more visibility for candidates and helps in creating public awareness and garnering support for presidential candidates.
Realization of the Internets Potential in Campaigning
Although the internet had been available for a long period its full power in political campaigns was realized in the 2000 campaigns. During this period a variety of online services were created in order to boost candidate’s campaigns. This created a giant leap into the use of the internet in campaigning and by 2004 candidates had various features on their websites that were meant at catching the voter’s attention.
These online features included the use of online voter registration, online volunteer sign up and fund raising. Another interesting feature was also added which included video biographies that helped in the creation of the right candidate image (Trent et al, 2008). During this period most candidates referred voters to their sites such as Senator John Kerry who frequently did this in order to provide the voters with more details on his ideas.
The websites also included other information such as details from the campaigns trail, copies of their speeches that emphasized the important quotes or phrases in the candidates speech and other information that was relevant to the campaign. In the 2004 and 2006 campaigns there was also the infectious spread of the use of web blogs. Political blogs are said to have initially come into the scene in 2001.Political blogs have been said to offer a platform for introduction of new candidates into the political scene. According to Trent et al (2008),the use of technology and mostly the internet has redefined the electoral system both in nature and manner.
Effects of Campaign messages on voters
As noted earlier in a presidential campaign image is everything and the various people who work in the background of a presidential campaign work towards creating the right candidate image. Hence this part of the article will focus on the effects that campaign messages do have on voters. According to Benoit (2007) exposure to communication is the strongest influence on accuracy of perceptions on potential voters. Political advertising helps in the creation of voter belief. Furthermore various media outlets open gateways of information and in today’s political campaigns, voters are bombarded with information whichever direction they turn (Benoit 2007).A poll that was carried out in 2002 in the first two months showed that 66% of American citizens were online (Benoit 2007).Therefore the media and mainly the internet has become a valid platform for the promotion of various voter beliefs and creation of a candidates image.
Advantages of political campaigns online
The use of the internet in political campaigns poses many advantages as we know it. One major advantage that has been related to online campaigning is the ability to easily raise funds to be used towards the campaign. Online campaigning also helps individuals to be able to easily share their political views with a large number of people through the use of bloggers who constantly update their sites with their latest views.
Another advantage of political campaigns is also the fact that it generates a wider platform for campaigning and reaching out to new groups of voters such as the youth. It is known to be a valuable tool in creating public awareness and propelling new individuals in the political arena into the limelight. Furthermore online advertising has been credited as being a cost effective means of saving money since it saves on advertising costs.
Disadvantages of political campaigns online
One of the disadvantages of online campaigning has been said to be the fact that the candidate lacks control over the content that may be published online (Henschen & Sidlow 2010).A candidate may be caught unaware and a message said in a moment may be published online for all to see. This may sometimes work against an individual’s campaign and foil their chances of winning especially if it is a negative comment.
Online campaigning has changed the political arena and if used wisely could give an individual good exposure. Changing trends in technology have indeed caused a change in the electoral system throughout history however the internet has created a whole new platform for political campaigning.