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Online, Obama Outpaces McCain by Miles

By Jose Antonio Vargas
Less than five months before The Big Day -- Nov. 4, 2008 -- national polls show John McCain and Barack Obama locked in a dead heat. The latest CNN poll has Obama at 49 and McCain at 46; the most recent Gallup poll shows Obama at 46 and McCain just a point away.

But on the Web, there's simply no contest: Obama easily trumps McCain.

Obama leads McCain on popular social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and YouTube, as measured by sites such as TechPresident.com, a favorite of online political operatives, and the less-known but also valuable Compete.com. On MySpace, Obama leads McCain more than seven-fold; Obama lists 390,279 friends to McCain's 53,259. The gap is almost similar on Facebook. Obama supporters number at 928,905 while McCain's clock in at 139,749. And on YouTube, it's almost as if Obama and McCain operate in two separate layers of the atmosphere. McCain's channel, which has posted 219 videos, has been viewed a little over 4 million times. Obama's channel, which has posted 1,102 videos, has been viewed 51.1 million times.

The Web is like a busy, massive, maze-like grocery store, and Obama has been more effective than McCain in ensuring that he's on various aisle, trying to attract specific demographic groups. Obama was the first candidate, Democratic or Republican, to have a profile on BlackPlanet.com, MiGente.com and AsianAve.com, popular social networking sites in the black, Latino and Asian communities, and was also the first to have a profile on On Eons.com, the Facebook for Baby Boomers. Obama's profile on Eons lists 290 friends. McCain, meanwhile, lists 3. This kind of online outreach has been instrumental in Obama's ability to raise millions online in the past few months -- something McCain hasn't matched.

In a campaign season with numerous online innovations, YouTube's influence is hard to overstate. Call it the YouTube cycle: what's posted on YouTube gets picked up by the 24-hour mainstream news media and then ends up on YouTube again, endlessly discussed and commented on. What's more, videos posted independent of campaigns -- by anonymous and not-so-anonymous people -- can and have had a damning effect. For Obama, that especially means videos featuring his former pastor Jeremiah Wright. Type "Obama" and "Wright" and more than 4,500 videos pop up. McCain, on the other hand, has been directly targeted by a YouTube channel named BraveNewFilms. The channel's "The Real McCain" series has been a YouTube hit, its latest three minute mash-up titled "McCain's YouTube Problem Just Became a Nightmare" viewed nearly 2 million times.

In the mash-up, news clips of McCain discussing a visit to Iraq and his position on tax cuts are edited for maximum effect. Towards the beginning of the mash-up, McCain says in a news clip: "The neighborhoods are safe. We walked down the streets with no body armor on." Seconds later, a reporter says, "McCain's delegation was guaded by more than a hundred American soldiers." The mash-up's final seconds focus on McCain's position on President Bush's tax cuts. In one video, McCain says, "I voted for the tax cuts." In another, he says, "I've always been for tax cuts."

Look for future Clickocracy columns to track McCain and Obama's online popularity.

This is the sixth in a series of online columns on our growing "clickocracy," in which we are one nation under Google, with e-mail and video for all. Please send suggestions, comments and tips to vargasj-at-washpost-dot-com.

By Web Politics Editor  |  June 10, 2008; 6:47 PM ET
Categories:  The Clickocracy  
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