As the Internet increasingly becomes integrated into the campaigns for Presidential elections, the impact of the Internet on lower-level elections becomes an interesting question. In Campaign Politics and the Digital Divide, Herrnson, Stokes-Brown and Hindman examine factors that influence what candidates use the Internet in their campaigns and how these candidates use it to gain support. In this study, it was found that age, socioeconomic status and race were all things that influenced whether or not a person uses the Internet. In relation to elections, candidates who are targeting African Americans or Latino Americans are generally less likely to use the Internet in their campaigns compared to candidates targeting wealthy, educated, white men. Challengers, in contrast to incumbents, are more likely to use the Internet. While the factors behind Candidates decisions to use the Internet in their campaigns is very interesting, Nielsen’s argument regarding specific types of Internet use shines more light onto the potential strengths and setbacks of the Internet in relation to campaigns.
Nielsen argues that specific mundane Internet tools like email and search engines are much more incorporated into mobilizing practices than emerging and specialized tools like social networking sites and campaign websites. In terms of mobilizing practices, the effort behind getting volunteers for political campaigns, mundane tools encompass the benefits of the Internet in campaigns. In contrast to emerging tools like MySpace, YouTube and Facebook, mundane tools play a key role in the campaigning process because they save campaign members a lot of time as they become an important tool in spreading information about elections and allow more people to become involved online. Thus, as more and more political candidates integrate the Internet into their campaigns, they should focus their attention on mundane tools in relation to attracting and communicating with volunteers. As Neilsen points out, emerging and specialized tools have the potential to become mundane tools in the future. As people become more and more comfortable with the Internet, they can find ways to make emerging and specialized tools more relevant in terms of online campaigning. Facebook, for example, which is currently an emerging tool, has the potential to be a crucial tool for campaigns if people can figure out how to make it less of a one-way flow of information.
If mundane tools are much more successful than emerging and specialized tools, should campaigns focus most of their attention on emails and search engines? How can campaigns take advantage of emerging tools like Facebook and YouTube?