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New Data Reported on Internet Use in Political Campaigns

The Pew Internet and American Life Project released their latest report yesterday. It’s chock full of stat nuggets in terms of percentages of adult Americans who are online, politicking online, watching videos online, and using social networking online all for the purposes of finding and choosing candidates to vote for in the election.

Most of the numbers aren’t surprising. That 46% of Americans of voting age are doing something online related to politics is, however, a big deal in terms of providing data supporting that candidates in future elections need to take advantage of online technologies more and more in order to increase their chances of winning. It’s also important in terms of people working on tech related to politics: it means we’re here to stay.

Convincing candidates and potential candidates to use online technologies for their campaigns when money is tight is always a challenge and is sometimes a gamble. In more rural areas where the majority of voters are not necessarily online, tried and true field and direct mail methods still work best. But these numbers show a shift in terms of who’s online and they show that nearly 75% of Americans have access to campaign communications via the Internet or cell phones. Even for those campaigns, not having an Internet presence at all could be dangerous.

So for everyone out there working on campaigns, here’s the story: incorporate online methodology within your campaign, and for Democrats seeking a younger voter base in particular, integrating technology-based strategies within the entire framework of the campaign organization, as Obama has, will make your field organization stronger. Build the best web site you can, get people working on smart email communications, put up a blog, and find ways to make the campaign have two-way traffic, receiving information back from potential voters, not just sending out the usual sound bytes to them. Create a dialogue with potential constituents. Learn about their needs. Utilize social networks. Make the campaign engaging and interesting.

There are a lot of lessons within the data, but I encourage anyone interested to look at the reports yourselves and take what you will from them. The campaigns of the future will only build on what we have now, so learning about what worked in ’08 will only improve chances your candidate will win in ’10 or ’12.