Do Emerging Tools Increase Votes?

It is easy to think that because the Internet is has demolished transaction costs, less broad campaigns like those for lower-elected officials could utilize emerging Internet tools to increase political mobilization in their favor. Many political campaigns are excited about “hypermedia” tools like social media that should “reduce the people to ‘managed citizens’” (Nielsen).

However, Nielsen argues that mundane tools such as email are much more effective when it comes to mobilization and getting people involved. Email “meets them where they are” and invites people to “coproduce their own role as citizens through shared tools”. With these tools people are more likely to come together and act. “Emerging tools” like social networking sites or specialized tools like campaign websites are still important for campaigns, but rather they are “preaching to the converted”, as Bimber and Davis put it (2003). He argues that these social media sites raise awareness for a campaign but do little to raise action and increase votes.

I do think it is important to see how things changed in this 2012 election. Although I realize I have mostly paid attention to the presidential campaign, I wouldn’t be surprised to see lower-elected officials using similar tactics. Besides watching the Presidential Debates on television, I found most political information online via these social networking sites, campaign websites, and news websites. As we read in the Steinhauer article, “Political fights that used to play out in old-school direct mailings and television advertisements are likely to migrate to Twitter”. We must keep an eye out for how political campaigns will be affected by companies like Blue State Digital that execute “interactive campaigns that bridge traditional and new media to build likes, grow revenue and deepen relationships”, and if these tactics work well with lower-elected officials.

We must keep in mind the research from Hernson, which explains that online campaign use is dependent on “strategic and structural factors”. For instance, does it make sense for a House candidate or mayoral candidate to create a twitter account when they are not attempting to reach the wide-spread population like a presidential candidate? How might these “hypermedia” campaigns be redundant or less effective? If so, should these candidates spend money and time setting them up? And finally, do you think these tools and tactics are really effective at increasing votes, or are their simply raising awareness?

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This entry was posted in Fall 2012, Week 10, Weekly Responses. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Do Emerging Tools Increase Votes?

  1. jesslinton says:

    I think you bring up a few important questions about hypermedia campaigns. It may not make sense for a lower-level politician to have a Twitter account because he or she isn’t trying to reach millions of voters, but it does suggest that their efforts are similar to those of presidential candidates. They may be less effective in reaching people, but the people they do reach in their town or county have more of a say, because less people are voting for this particular individual. So in general, I think it is worth their time and money to set up accounts like these, because even if they aren’t reaching as many people, those they do reach will have more of a say.

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