In the last number of years, the effects of new information sites and communication technology has gained popularity in the study of election campaigns in political science especially. The establishment of a new social site or an emerging media technical-knowhow seems to be lowly under-estimated on the political influence. Election Communication Technologies (ECTs) have been known to provide citizens with information, make democratic participation to be vital and make revolutions of mass communication as the only form of communication.
In campaigning, new technology is said to be a force to enhance changes. In 2002, the United States of America (USA) vote net made a report on the best and worst voter gaining practices. The report known as “A Blueprint for Voter Outreach” highlighted that the internet, especially through blogs and social sites, acted as a significant medium for voter turnout of the USA population, mainly for the young population. The report also noted that the internet is the most successful medium in reaching out for voters, especially those that use the social sites or use e-mails to communicate or get information. In developed countries, like the USA, there is the existence of vibrant and active political blogging networks that reach out to voters as well as mobilizing the electorates during campaigns.
There have been numerous effects arising from the use of modern technology, which is characterized by the use of the internet and communication related media technology through the use of emails, blogs and social media. These effects are depicted in each aspect of our day to day life. This research paper will concentrate on the effects of this modern technology in the political scene, making a focus on the effects of voter turnout and mobilization in United States elections.
The Effects Modern Technology (In Particular Internet and Communication Related Media Technology (Emails, Blogs, You tube, Twitter, Social Media Etc.) Has Had On Voter Turnout and Mobilization in United States Elections
According to Wedig (2007) in the article “The Internet and Political Organizations: Force, Tool or Wildcard”, the author starts with the first presidential campaign website to go online in 1995 for the first time. The author goes on to explain that the website was characterized by just a number of photos and state positions unlike the current state of political websites. The first time use of internet technology, however, was used by Governor Jerry Brown who used an e-mail in his political campaign in 1992 (Wedig, 2007). Since 1998, the internet has become a common place for the political arena and it has become an important and crucial feature in electoral campaigns.
The internet serves as a communication device and it has also been increasingly used for the strategic organization of political organizations. The aspect that most people do not understand is how the internet and the web social media have been integrated, that is, technology and politics to form the base for either mobilization or voter turn out in the USA. The original perspectives have come up to explain the effects of the internet on politics. The internet is seen as a force that transforms politics to a significant standard due to the intrinsic characteristics that technology has. The internet, in this case, can be seen as an agent that influences change to increase the democratic actions and strengthen the relationship between the civil and political world (Wedig, 2007).
The internet is also seen with another perspective of a tool that has to adapt to the existing culture of organizations and it has no norms of its own. In this perspective it is viewed as a pathway, which provides outcomes of already existing situations. The final perspective, elaborated by Wideg (2007), is that the internet is a wildcard that cannot be predicted and for this reason it can cause negative effects to the political organizations involved.
The federal, local and state governments have adopted political sites to provide citizens easy accessibility of information and other services offered online during national elections (Woody & Weare, 2004). With the help of computer technology and the internet, the contents available on the USA websites; such as Youtube.com has changed the general manner, in which citizens think about elections. This has enabled USA politicians to provide a global audience in which their goals can be specifically identified due to the different views harbored by the internet users (Browning, 2000). Nearly all the political organizations in the USA are using the internet as their basic strategy and there is also an increasing trend of using the internet as a centralizing or mobilizing tool, especially in campaigns.
Political organizations, however, have found it hard to incorporate the internet in their endeavors in comparison to the businesses. This is in contrast to the increasing internet usage in the last couple of years. Between 1996 and 2012, a lot of American citizens rely on the internet to get information concerning politics. The percentage has been growing from 22% in 1996 to 52% in the late 2004 (Wideg, 2007). In the 2006 elections, 26 million Americans used the internet to obtain political information.
The internet, as a modern technology, has distinctive differences with its preceding technologies like the dominant televisions and radios. The internet provides in-depth coverage unlike other media technologies (Lynda, 2003). The internet has low barriers of entry in comparison to other technologies. Computer technology has made a lot of improvements and the cost per power (processing speed, memory etc.) has been known to reduce with each generation of its technology. This is to add to the inexpensive cost of starting up a website. The low cost of using it for organizations enables them to use it as a communicating tool. The cost of chatting or accessing information on the internet is also relatively low. The content availability is dynamic and for this reason it is increasingly relevant for politics in the way of accessing past information. Internet has enabled even small political organizations to be able to gain recognition creating a feedback for the citizens to voice their issues to political organizations and participants during campaigns. It has also led to the bondage of citizens and political parties in the elections resulting from the establishment of strong ties (Karlsen, 2010).
According to Shaupp & Carter (2005), the authors add on the effects of modern technology on voters outreach in USA elections. The authors explain that the internet is a medium that gives the government an opportunity to improve their service quality and makes it convenient for citizens to obtain political news as they unfold. The authors go on to talk about how even an online based voting (e-voting) can maximize the voter turnout of the USA voters. A research shows that American citizens regard blogs to having more reliability in comparison to the mainstream media. This has depicted the internet to having a persuasive and significant information role in the American political campaigns (Campbell, 2009). The Dean campaign especially shows how significant blogs are for the American elections. This was through “Blog for America” and it was seen as a flattering national strategy for other campaigns. It created room for openness to public participation in national campaigns even through fundraising activities for the American government.
Recent studies, presented by Campbell (2009), have shown that the internet popularity of a candidate would contribute to the participant’s victory in the national elections, which is characterized by mobilization of voters through the internet during campaigns. The first notable success of the use of the internet as a tool for mobilization of one’s followers is depicted in a national candidate of the United States. This is a senator John McCain who ran on a republican vote and used his website to raise over 20% of his campaign funds in 2000. The internet provides an easy access of fast communication among members and increased opportunities to learn about national elections. The technology can provide a good base for a republican form of government as depicted in the founders of the internet related campaigns in the USA.
The internet makes communication quick due to the modern technology of internet sensitive phones and computers. Citizens of the USA feel more appreciated and valued by the use of a base to voice their opinions like that of social sites, blogs and e-mail connections (Campbell, 2000). Decision making is largely dispersed, thus, it is made efficiently as events happen during campaigns or elections. The internet, however, is seen to have negative effects and studies done on chat rooms reinforce negative views to others. This is because communication on the internet is not guaranteed to be of positive influence to American citizens. Those without internet access are generally placed at a disadvantage of those who can access national American politics through the internet. The candidates of the congress have also been identified with handling online issues efficiently. The arrival of the internet and the World Wide Web has encouraged politicians to identify and reveal themselves in a way that the other media cannot (Wilkerson, 2003). The internet has been widely used for the national candidates to advertise themselves in national elections.
According to Marsden (2004), there has been concern of increased political terrorism due to the added usage of the internet to monitor a candidate’s actions and moves during elections or campaigns. This is because just as candidates of national elections in the USA use the internet to gather voter turnout, it is the same way terrorists could gather recruitments on sympathizers or people willing to undertake a terrorist attack on a certain national candidate (Harris & Lock, 2010).
According to the authors Harris & Lock (2010), the Obama Campaign is reportedly the most effective campaign to efficiently use the internet for national elections. This led the presidential candidate to win the 2008 elections. States in the United States actually have already used internet based voting to perform state elections as from 2000, according to the authors Smith & Clark (2005) of the article “Revolutionalising the voting process through online strategies”.
There have been little effects of the internet as a form of modern technology on the voter turnout and mobilization of voters in the past decades. In the recent years, however, the internet and communication related media technology has positively contributed in the United States elections. The internet is the fastest moving modern technology and for this reason it has gained a lot of popularity among the American citizens in comparison to other technologies like televisions (Thompson, 1998).
USA actually has the largest number of internet users, followed by Sweden. This has created an open form of interaction between the citizens and the national candidates, which has largely contributed to the increase of voter turnouts in national elections. It has also led to effective mobilization of the citizens during national elections in the United States even with the few negative effects, mentioned in the research paper. New information and new technologies are increasingly becoming an integral part in the national campaigns of most of the countries around the world.