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Much like the 1998 holiday season introduced online shopping to the world, the 2000 presidential election in the US could be the first time the Internet plays a major role in presidential politics.
If used properly, the Internet could propel candidates that use it effectively in much the same way radio helped Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s and television helped John F. Kennedy in the 1960s.
In terms of pure numbers, the Internet’s importance is assured. According to research by Gartner Group’s Dataquest, 55 percent of voting-age Americans have Internet access either at home, work, or school. By the time “Super Tuesday” rolls around on March 7, 2000, that figure should rise to 63 percent. Super Tuesday will see more than half of the convention delegates chosen. According to Dataquest, more than half of the voters in 10 of the 13 Super Tuesday states are online.
By Election Day, November 7, 2000, 70 percent of voting-age individuals will have Internet access according to Dataquest. Dataquest’s survey also found that 12 percent of Web users regularly visit sites about political candidates, a figure that should rise as the election draws near.
The advantage will go to the candidate that can properly harness the Internet.
“The challenge facing candidates is to exploit this new Internet medium to its fullest — to capture the hearts and minds of the voters as FDR and JFK did with radio and TV,” said Dataquest’s George Barto.
Barto said candidates will need to find ways to make their sites an interactive experience without slowing them up with graphics, audio, and video.
“If no candidate successfully masters the Internet in this election, the first Internet presidential election may have to be postponed to 2004.”
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