THE WEB AND THE VOTE: Impact being felt nationally and locally

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When Democratic front-running Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton wanted to announce their candidacy for president, they did not turn to The New York Times or a late-night TV talk show to make the announcement.
Instead, they released a video announcing their candidacy on their own campaign web sites, triggering a trend that has continued throughout the primary and shows no sign of going away any time soon - the importance of the Web and its impact on politics.
“In the space of a dozen years, it has begun to revolutionize politics,” said Doug Muzzio, a professor in Baruch College’s Public Affairs Department, “It has changed the terrain of American politics, and it will continue to do so.”
While TV and newspapers continue to be the main sources for voters to receive information about candidates, 23 percent of respondents to a recent ABC News/Facebook Poll said they currently use the Internet as the main source of election news - nearly double than what it was seven years ago. In addition, the January 3 poll showed that the Internet was the only media outlet to see a significant increase during the past four years.
Muzzio said although there is no polling data that depicts this data in state or citywide elections, it is likely that the same trends are occurring.
“I would have to believe what you are seeing nationally with more and more people going online for political information is happening locally,” Muzzio said.
Although more people of all ages are going online to seek election information, the greatest impact is on younger voters. Seventy-one percent of the people who use the Internet are under 50, and nearly a third of the people are under 30, according to the ABC News/Facebook Poll.
State Senator Serphin Maltese, who has represented parts of western Queens for nearly 20 years, recently re-launched his senate web site, and although he said he is still learning all the nuances of the Web, he understands its importance.
“Many of the younger voters tell us between web sites and e-mail that’s the only way they communicate,” said Maltese, who is expected to face a fierce challenge for his Senate seat from City Councilmember Joseph Addabbo in November.
In addition to using the Web to seek information about candidates, it has also had a significant impact in terms of fundraising on a national level. In January alone, Obama’s campaign reported raising roughly $28 million online with the vast majority of contributions coming from individuals who gave less than $100.
“I can only hope it affects my campaign the same way it has affected the national campaigns,” joked City Councilmember John Liu, who has raised more than $2.2 million in campaign funds for a 2009 election, although he has not declared what office he is running for yet.
Meanwhile, Muzzio said there are other areas including constant e-mail blasts and text messaging to organize groups as additional technological changes continued to be developed.
“It’s not only the Internet and the Web, it’s this whole matrix of electronic communications that is having a profound impact,” Muzzio said.

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