Week 9

Today’s topic of debate focuses on the question of how effective the Internet’s role has become in engaging young voters in political activities, specifically voting. Ever since politicians begun to utilize the Internet in their political campaign, this medium has been praised by political scholars for revolutionizing the way users get involved in politics and elections online prompting them to become more politically active. However, not everyone is convinced of the media outlets effects.

Aaron Shaw analyzes the 2008 elections and ultimately concludes that there is a high level of uncertainty towards how much people’s Internet usage effects their level of political activities as well how these virtual activities link to voting and enacting users to participate in other offline political activities. To test this theory, Shaw looks at different studies conducted in the past for measures to implement in his study of citizens political engagement in the 2008 general election. Shaw’s findings indicate that those who are involved in political activities online are complemented with their offline engagement. Thus, being an active member on the Internet is unrelated to voting.  However, Shaw did find that a positive relationship with online activity and civic engagement existed.

Meanwhile, according to Vassia Gueorguieva, the political scholar claims that YouTube and MySpace affected the 2006 election, both positive and negative. In addition, Gueorguieva also predicts that these two, distinct social networking sites will forever change the way elections and campaigns. Gueorguieva states that both MySpace and YouTube benefitted politicians’ campaigns in that the sites appealed to a mass audience as opposed to a niche, segmented division of the population. Thus, they were able to increase volunteer recruitment, candidate exposure and fund-raising due to candidates’ ability to connect with a substantial number of voters from diverse backgrounds.

Personally, I feel that Gueorguieva has very little support in his claims regarding how MySpace would revolutionize voters’ political involvement. Gueorguieva chose MySpace to discuss at lengths in his article because during 2006 the site was at its heyday with millions of users, which obviously made it an easy target for politicians to reach out to diverse demographics to encourage them to volunteer and donate to their cause.  Ironically, the social networking site attributed to revolutionizing the 2006 election and forecasted by Gueorguieva to change voters political involvement both online is barely existing!! Today MySpace has been replaced by it’s main competitor, Facebook, shortly after the election. Overall, I believe there needs to be more studies conducted especially during this year to measure the Internet’s effects due to how recent the Internet has been implemented by candidates in order to get accurate data. Although I believe that the Internet most definitely has prompted people, specifically young adults, to engage in more political activities through candidates’ wide presence on the web, I still believe its effects are limited and very circumstantial. As a person who is moderately interested in politics, I believe that my involvement in politics has most definitely increased due to the Internet. Although my political action may not be representative of others used in the sample of either scholars’ studies, I do believe my age is. In 2008, my roommate and I saw via Facebook of local volunteer possibilities to help the Obama campaign. If I had not seen the Facebook event pop up on my news feed, I most certainly would have not gone nor been aware of these volunteer efforts.

So the question I pose to the class does the Internet have strong effects on it’s users political activity as perceived to be by most scholars??  If so, do you feel the Internet has encouraged you to become more active, volunteer and/or vote for a particular candidate??


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