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When Candidates Ask, People Answer

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a story with Jose Antonio Vargas about the different ways technology and the Internet were impacting the way candidates in the 2008 President election were interacting with voters.

Yahoo told me about the use of its Answers service becoming a popular way for candidates to get a pulse of what voters think about specific issues. Yahoo Answers was originally pitched as a way for people to tap the vast knowledge of everyday folks surfing through Yahoo. Want to know how to get a ketchup stain off of a silk shirt? Just ask the question and hopefully someone on Yahoo will post an answer.

Before the campaigns hit the trail, the biggest response came from a question submitted by Oprah Winfrey last year. More than 37,000 answers came in response to her question: "If you were given $1,000 to change the life of a perfect stranger, what would you do?"

Several weeks back, Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. John McCain got into the game. Clinton solicited thoughts on the issue of health care and received, in a matter of only a few days, more than 38,000 responses. McCain asked about government spending and the topic generated more than 18,000 responses.

Yesterday, Sen. Barack Obama posted a question of his own: "How can we engage more people in the democratic process?" As of yesterday evening, there were more than 1,200 responses - and the question will stay active on the site for another 14 days. There is also a note from Sen. Obama asking participants to add him to their Answers Networks so he might continue the dialogue. Apparently, this won't be his only question.

In this Internet-powered election, it seems that politicians who really want to know what people think about the issues are figuring out the best way to find out - they ask.

By Sam Diaz  |  March 28, 2007; 1:00 PM ET  | Category:  Sam Diaz
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