By Neil Leibundguth
Social networking websites like Facebook.com and video sharing websites like YouTube.com have changed the dynamics of presidential debates and campaigns, especially in the way they appeal to young voters.
Already this year, CNN has held a debate integrating videos sent from YouTube users with the traditional debate format. ABC recently held a debate utilizing Facebook for up-to-the-minute polling, questions and comments.
Facebook also provides several applications such as the “Election ’08” application in which users can show their support of a candidate on their profile page and see how he or she ranks amongst the other users of that application. The candidates also each have their own Facebook profiles which allow Facebook users to “friend” them and become supporters.
YouTube offers a “You Choose ’08” page where users can watch videos from and about each candidate and sort them by the issues. Users can even subscribe to a candidate’s channel and receive every new video that candidate submits to YouTube.
Other social networking websites have been a boon to some candidates’ campaigns. Digg.com and Reddit.com are websites where users can submit links to stories and articles on other websites. These are then voted upon by other users. Besides being used for procrastinating while at work, websites have given focus to lesser-known candidates that the mainstream media mostly ignores, such as Republican Ron Paul and Democrat Dennis Kucinich.
Paul’s campaign has shown the potential power that the Internet and social networking websites may have over presidential elections to come. His campaign has used their Internet support to break the record for one-day fundraising with $6 million earned. This boost put his fourth quarter fundraising at the $18 million mark.
All of the candidates are now using the Internet to reach and organize voters of all ages, especially the young. This trend shows that it will be critical for future campaigns to fully embrace this technology.