It’s impossible to deny the fact that U.S. citizens are living in the digital age. Ones and zeroes have come to define younger generations and the Internet is the new go-to for all information.
In November 2008, citizens throughout the United States will digitally cast their votes for president.
Whenever an election is looming, there is much discussion over the influence that the younger generation, whose voter turnout is historically low, will have on the vote. MTV’s “Rock the Vote” campaign, in which P. Diddy appeared on screen flaunting a T-shirt that read “Vote or Die,” tried to motivate young voters to make their voices heard.
Since 2004, Facebook and MySpace have exploded, attracting young people across the nation. The presidential candidates, or at least their campaign coordinators, realized this, and have tapped into the social networking trend.
“The Internet’s not just for reaching Ron Paul supporters anymore,” Ken Wheaton said in the Advertising Age article titled “In Politics, Web Surpasses TV for Under-30 Viewers.”
According to Kim Pearson, professor of journalism, “(Ron Paul) has made effective use of online media to attract support and spread his message,” and Barack Obama has “an extensive social media presence on sites like Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Second Life.”
With November nearing, Facebook is just one of the social networking sites flooded with politically-charged applications and groups. When used in this context, it can become a useful source for 2008 campaign information.
Barack Obama, Ron Paul, John Edwards, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain have Facebook pages where users can be linked to their various campaign Web sites and YouTube channels. One can even view their interests, favorite movies and TV shows.
The ABC News application on Facebook allows users to choose a candidate to support, participate in Facebook debates and read ABC’s top political stories.
According to Gary Woodward, professor of communication studies, young people are utilizing social networking politically because they have identified with and banded together behind a certain candidate.
One of the problems with relying solely on the Internet for campaigning is that, “the Internet is active,” Woodward said. People have to look for campaign information on the Internet. Conversely, TV advertisements and signs are pervasive – people don’t have to look for them.
While Woodward thinks that “the Internet will not make or break the election,” Pearson believes “candidates who rely on a more traditional media relation strategy will probably suffer.”
She went on to predict that “if Obama wins, (his Internet campaign) would have definitely had an effect on his victory. If he wins it is because he got first-time voters to participate in the electoral process.”
Regardless of the outcome of the election, the Internet is changing the campaigning methods of the presidential election.
According to Eva LaSata, sophomore accounting major and founding member of the Secular Student Alliance, “Candidate information is more accessible than ever, especially for college students. Who would have known Facebook would become so informative? It’s kind of hard not to be informed.”
“Social networking gives students a better way to get involved,” Terence Grado, junior political science and philosophy major and chairman of the College Republicans, said.
Communication is what social networks are about. With political information so easily accessible, one cannot help but wonder if social networking holds the key to attracting the younger vote.
And while the candidates bitterly battle it out via multiple forms of media, there is one thing that Republican candidate Rudy Giuliani and Democratic candidate Barack Obama have in common: their favorite movie is “The Godfather.”