What Clicks With Voters Online
Who's the most popular candidate online?
All the presidential candidates are campaigning online. They all have Web sites, all have MySpace profiles, all have YouTube channels, among others. But an even more important question than who's most popular is how that popularity is being measured. Beginning today, The Trail will take a weekly look at who's winning one part of the presidential online popularity contest.
Is it the number of a candidate's MySpace friends? Or Facebook groups? The number of channel subscriptions on YouTube? Or the number of supporters donating online? The traffic of his/her official site?
The Internet is kind of like a one-stop-shop grocery store. If you know what you want, head straight to that aisle. If not, keep on strolling. Some only go to MySpace, others only to Facebook. Sen. Barack Obama comfortably leads the presidential field in both the number of MySpace friends and Facebook supporters. While some subscribe to a candidate's official YouTube channel -- Rep. Ron Paul, who has a loyal, Web-savvy following, leads with 26,360 subscribers as of Sunday night -- many more watch the unofficial videos uploaded by YouTubers. This is what happens when politicians, at home with the we're-in-control, top-down style of campaigning, are subject to the sometimes chaotic, almost uncontrollable YouTubesphere.
There's a disconnect of sorts between the campaign that's being waged on the trail, offline, and the campaign being fought online. National polls have consistently shown former mayor Rudy Giuliani and Sen. Hillary Clinton leading their respective parties. On the Internet, Giuliani and Clinton take a back seat to Paul and Obama, respectively. And none of the candidates, Republican or Democrat, come close Obama's online fundraising haul. Online strategists themselves are trying to figure out how to accurately measure a candidate's online popularity, and they point to Obama's recent fundraising tally as a big sign. Obama raised more than $32 million in the second quarter, and nearly a third of it came over the Internet, according to the Obama campaign. Ninety percent of the online donations were under $100, and half were $25 or less.
And of course the 2008 primary race, though already in overdrive, is about to get busier after Labor Day.
If recent trends continue, the Internet will play an even bigger role as the campaign heats up.
--Jose Antonio Vargas
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