Internet Campaigning

In Campaign Politics and the Digital Divide, Hindman et al. examine the conditions under which state legislators use the Internet in campaigning. The researchers found that, among other things, constituency characteristics, whether or not the candidate is a challenger, how much candidate experience he has, or how much money he raises all influence whether the candidate maintains an online presence. Also, challengers are more likely to recruit volunteers through online means than incumbents. Though Hindman et al.’s article was written for state legislative elections, many of these trends can also be found in Dean’s 2004 campaign for the Presidency.

Howard Dean seems to fit the profile of the type of candidate that would most likely use the Internet as a campaign tool. Because he was seen as a challenger and an underdog compared to the other Democratic candidates, it pushed him to use the Internet as a campaign tool. As Shirky argues in Existing Deanspace, the Dean campaign was a novelty campaign—no one had done something like this before probably because they were already set in using traditional forms of media. Similarly, Dean probably had less experience in politics than the other candidates so he was not as “set in his approach toward campaigning” (Hindman et al., 36). Moreover, because Dean was a challenger, he heavily utilized the Internet to recruit volunteers through meetup.com or Dean’s website so that he was able to “create local, decentralized social networks from scratch” (Hindman, 126). Therefore, Dean’s situation made him more likely to use the Internet because he could be seen as a challenger and had less experience with politics.

Furthermore, the fact that those candidates who raised more money are more likely to have an online presence most likely arose from the lessons of the Dean campaign. According to Hindman in The Real Lessons of Howard Dean, Dean’s campaign revolutionized how campaigns raise money because small donations from everyday people could add up to large amounts. Therefore, it makes sense that those who raised a sizable amount of money had to have some sort of online donation set up. Do you think Dean’s campaign fits the profile that Hindman et al., describes? Are there other types of campaigns or politicians that might also be susceptible to creating an online presence other than the characteristics mentioned in the research?

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