IIt all seems like a long time ago now, but the 2008 US election is still being trawled over in the blogosphere. What’s emerging is that many claim the 2008 US election was won – and lost – on the Internet. But what exactly does that mean?
Of course the Sun Newspaper famously claimed it was them that secured victory for John Major back in 1992, against Neil Kinnock, by running a sustained campaign of pro conservative party political stories.
So if it was the Internet that won it this time around, let’s look at exactly why that claim is now being made.
To start with, there’s the fact that this was the first US election when social media websites such as YouTube, Facebook and Myspace even existed. YouTube was only founded in 2005, and both MySpace and Facebook had but a tiny proportion of eyeballs that they now attract.
Social media websites are of course some of the most popular destinations on the web. Whilst people used to just search for information or products and them buy them, now they’re interacting, conversing and opinion forming using social media. For the first time, people are ‘giving’ a bit of themselves to the web.
For example, lots of voters used Facebook, Myspace etc, to show off their participation in voting, by taking pictures of themselves at the booths.
They also sent each other ‘vote Obama’ and ‘vote McCain’ buttons, and wrote about each on their own pages. Of course where their ‘friends’ had written about their favourite candidate they wrote comments and opinions in response.
More active members posted comments onto other sites, such as blogs and forums. And of course there’s Twitter: literally hundreds ‘Tweeted’ about the election and their candidate.
Barack Obama even launched his own micro-social network called MyarackObama.com.
Chris Kelly of Facebook said that this sort of activity boosted voter turnout. By 10pm there were 4.9m Facebook users who had said they had voted.
So was it the Internet wot won it? There’s so many hundreds of factors that make up a person’s mind, and there’s no doubt that like never before the Internet played a role. Its probably just a taster of things to come for the UK.
One things is for sure: as someone who knows how to make a website, you may have great influence over the outcome of future elections.
So Brown, Cameron, are you going to use the Web for UK 2010? To borrow from another well know ‘Twitterer’, ‘Yes you can.’.