Week 7: Cody Patton

This week’s readings looked at how political candidates use the internet for campaign purposes. The Bimber and Davis chapter focused on the early use of internet in the 1998 and 2000 elections. Television advertising took up the majority of a candidates budget in the 1990’s as elections were more based on the candidate rather than their political party. The television media place more of an emphasis on personal characteristics because of the possibility of images and videos. However, the internet proved to be a good forum for getting their actual message across. Traditional media would focus on the “horse race” aspect of the election rather than the actual messages of the candidates. The internet in the 1990’s was a new technology that could be used for politicians, but they were still hesitant to put a lot of money into it. At the time only a small portion of the population used the internet and it was difficult to target individuals.

As the internet grew more popular, candidates figured out how to use the internet to raise money for their campaigns. The Druckman study used the example of John McCain raising a large amount of money in only three days through his website. He also presented the opportunity for those who donated money to directly chat with him. This study also found that almost all of the candidates in the study used websites to help their campaigns. The websites were most important in controlling the candidate’s message in close races where the traditional media only focused on who was leading in the polls. The sense of online activism that these websites provide is key in the shift away from the importance of traditional media and the influence of “town hall-style” appearances by candidates. While these personal websites allow for the user to learn more about the candidate, I believe the political scene is shifting back towards the pre 1980’s way of focusing on party based decisions rather than the personal characteristics of the candidate.

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