Campaigns Head to the Web

With Steve Forbes announcing his candidacy for president online, it seems like a good time to look at how candidates are utilizing the Internet to help with their campaigns.

A study by Campaign & Elections magazine found that 63 percent of political elections in 1998 featured an Internet presence. The study was done among employees involved in 270 campaign between July and August 1998.

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More than half (56.1 percent) of those polled agreed with the statement “the Internet is a very important new communications and information medium that is already changing political campaigns.” Only three percent took the opposite end of the spectrum, saying the Internet is “just a fad and won’t have any real effect.”

“While the Internet is viewed favorably by most of the people we polled, and its impact on campaigns is taken seriously by a strong majority, it is clear that the political market has only just begun to pursue the possibilities of cyberspace,” said Ron Faucheux, editor-in-chief of Campaigns & Elections.

The majority of campaigns in the survey (63.3 percent) said they already had a Web site up, 20.7 percent said they expected to have one up shortly, and 15.9 percent did not and would not establish a Web presence.

The campaign that did not have a Web presence gave a variety of answers ranging from a lack of money, lack of time, lack of competition in the election (rendering a Web presence unnecessary), and the feeling that it wasn’t worth the effort.

Almost half of those surveyed never use email to reach mass voters, but more than one-third said they very often use email to reach supporters.

A slightly higher proportion of Republicans (67.8 percent) have Web sites up than Democrats (62.7 percent). Half of the third-party campaign surveyed had a Web site.

Nearly 86 percent of campaigns with a budget over $1 million had Web site, but the same can be said of only 54 percent of campaigns budgeted under $50,000. Only 2.4 percent of the campaigns told Campaigns & Election they would spend more than $10,000 on Web sites, 43 percent planned on spending less than $500.

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