Use of New Media in Political Campaigning

Category: Facebook, Media, Voting, Youtube
Last Updated: 13 Feb 2021
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In the campaigning of all United States, Canada and Britain for the elections 2008/2010/2011, the role of new media was vital. It started off with Obama’s campaign in 2008 and is still carried on in elections after that. This paper looks at the use of new media by parties in the three countries and how their use of media differed in the dated elections. For this, the paper explores three key concepts of new media that have affected politics: 1- What was the party’s goal or strategy? - How did the party execute its goal or strategy? 3- In what way was each party’s strategy a success or failure? With the use of quantitative and qualitative data, the hypotheses shows that new media’s introduction in political marketing has impacted and evolved the campaigning strategies since 2008. It shows new media has been a major component of campaign strategies for educating voters, informing citizens about electorates, party’s ideals and resolutions and how the use of mass media though still present has declined due to the arrival of new media.

The findings suggest that new media has been a major source of campaign financing in US while in Canada, it has been a way of educating voters. Contrary, in Britain, it has more been used as a side tool where mass media is still a major component of campaigning. Introduction of New Media and It’s Effects on Political Campaigning Living in new digital reality means that citizens must accept the changes it will bring to their culture and society. While the mass media provided people with a platform to raise their voice and be heard, the new media has given people a chance to interact.

The need of humans to constantly be conversed, heard, and feel valuable is what the new media provides. These qualities of new media has enabled it to move from the basic realm of our daily lives to other important aspects of our lives of which one is, the arena of politics. With the introduction of the new media and its varying forms, politics and the idea of interaction with leaders and parties has revolutionized. This paper argues that the use of new media has changed the notion of politics, with the leaders and parties now bounded to learn new ways to interact and stay connected if they are to leave a mark and succeed.

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This will be shown through the differing use of new media in relation to party’s goals and strategies, their execution and success or failure in United States of America (USA), Britain (UK) and Canada for the elections of 2008/2010/2011. New Strategies With the dramatic changes in telecommunication technology, the way people interact and the way politics functions have been transformed. There have been several new media strategies to engage voters and money in the three countries. Firstly, with the expansion of broadband technology, and the introduction of smart phones, the world of politics has become more interactive.

New media has provided people with a cheaper method to constantly interact with their leaders, parties and be informed about them without having to physically travel to attend debates or political rallies. Also, this has allowed for web-accessible information to the public where there is no more need for pamphlets, brochures or posters to be accessed and dropped off at people’s houses. People can now sit in the comfort of their homes and get all the information they need about their candidates, and parties.

The paper, Reform in an Age of Networked campaigns mentions, “Broadband has acted as a force multiplier in the creation of a more distributed computing environment” (Corrado, Malbin, Mann & Ornstein, 2010). Secondly, the new media has allowed for different types of political organizations and networked communities where people can mobilize and act together around a certain issue or political point of view through use of social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. The candidate campaigns are now more engaged with either the number of donations being tracked or the number of visitors to the sites being noted, digital communication makes t easier to identify and manage supporters. It also allows parties to expand their databases for use in subsequent elections. Thirdly, new media has allowed for innovation and an increase in donations for campaign financing. An example of this is the MyBO site for Barrack Obama which set a new standard to recruit and engage financial supporters. “Individuals who made a contribution were regularly solicited by email and often were asked to make an additional contribution that would be matched by another donor.

Contributors could sign up for a “recurring gift” program that allowed them to make donations of as little as $25 on regular basis by charging the amount to a credit card. ” This emphasis on small donors instead of a few large donors proved very successful for Obama’s campaign and this was only possible due to his wise use of new media techniques. New Media is a 21st Century catchall term used to define all that is related to the internet and the interplay between technology, images and sound (Socha & Eber-Schmid, 2012). The elections before 2008/2010/2011 were untouched by new media.

It was with Facebook’s launch in 2004, YouTube in 2005 and Twitter in 2006 that ever since, new media became a vital component of politics. USA election 2008 The 2008 US Presidential election were the start of what was to come in politics. The use of new media and the significance it was about to have in the politics, started in the year 2008 with Obama and McCain campaigning against each other. These elections were the first one where political candidates possessed a huge media presence then any candidates ever in the political history.

Both the candidates of the Republicans and the Democrats, McCain and Obama had not only websites that kept people aware of their campaigns but they were also virtually present on almost all of the social networking platforms. New Media was used as a new, cheap, “grassroots” (a golden word for campaigns of any kind) way for candidates to shore up support, and McCain and Obama have jumped in with gusto; both candidates were on Facebook (McCain has 214,482 supporters listed, Obama 1,380,827), and both had MySpace pages (McCain has 64,644 friends, Obama 457,188); both were also on LinkedIn, Digg, Twitter, Flickr, and Eventful (McCracken, 2008).

The individual websites for both the candidates were MyBarackObama. com and McCainSpace (see Appendix A for snapshots of websites). The registration process were similar for both sites with each asking you to explain the reasons of your choice and general info like name, date of birth etc and once you entered the site, you could perform activities like writing blog posts, sharing videos, status or tweets to engage and remain informed. Obama’s site attracted a lot more people due to its catchy and unique outlook then that of McCain.

The site also had a financial aspect to it where people could make donations online allowing people to feel valuable and participatory even if the donation was a small amount. McCainSpace—like his entire website—had a clunky, blase feel to it. MyBarackObama. com, though scarcely more in others resting or entertaining than McCainSpace, did at least feel more comfortable in its own skin; the style and typography was cohesive, easy to navigate, and it seamlessly fit into Obama’s larger site (McCracken, 2008).

The Republican as their general top down, hierarchical approach in elections seemed to be resistant in using the new media because they were reluctant to move of the traditional message conveying system giving the power of message into the hands of outsiders. Contrary, Democrats were more flexible in the approach handing control to people outside of formal party members and representatives. This allowed them to make use of new media tools by not obsessing with message control. For example, The first was the Obama Girl video titled “I Got a Crush… On Obama. The three-minute video, made by independent filmmakers unassociated with the campaign, featured a seductive young woman singing about her “crush” on Senator Obama. The second, also unassociated with the campaign, was a video montage of Barrack Obama edited to appear as if the candidate were performing with musician Will. i. am. Titled “Yes We Can,” that video became a rallying cry for the Obama campaign. Those videos were watched 11. 6 and 13 million times respectively (Metzgar & Maruggi, 2009).

Overall, Obama clearly due to his bold and innovative strategies was more successful in campaigning using the new media then McCain was which might have played a role in him being elected as President as well. Britain election 2010 Compared to USA, Britain has been more subtle in their use of the new media. The 2010 elections marked the first time that new media was introduced and used in Britain’s politics. From the televised debates to the online involvement through social media sites, the 2010 elections were a revolutionary change in the country’s politics. The most impact that new media had in the year’s elections were behind the scenes.

The parties used it to mobilize and organize supporters and campaigners to increase their database and garner continuous support. Parties used email to connect with potential voters on a regular basis. The strategies used by parties varied though. For the Lib Democrats it seems to have been a largely internal and campaigner-focused affair but the Conservatives were much more prolific with regular (often more than daily) emails arriving in the inboxes of members and supporters from David Cameron, George Osborne, Eric Pickles and William Hague(Williamson, 2010).

Compared to these two, Labour party’s strategy was somewhere in between with them being public oriented having face to face contact then Liberal Democrats but not being as professional and subtle as the Conservatives. One Labour insider described a mass email from Lord Mandelson as ‘utterly boring’ and said they could not read beyond the first paragraph (Williamson, 2010). As successful as email service proved during elections, what was shocking was the failure of party’s websites to engage voters. While the main party websites did not gain much support, spoof websites for the Conservatives like mydavidcameron. com proved successful.

This was set up by an individual as a response to the ‘airbrushed’ images of the Tory party leader appearing on billboards around the country. The website allowed anyone to download templates, create their own spoof Conservative election posters and then upload them (Williamson, 2010). The Liberal Democrats launched their site labservative. com and the Labour party also created a website with web content including a viral of YouTube videos. The Conservatives went ahead of the two parties with anyone entering key words or phrases into Google being given a link to their website at the top of the page and usually a YouTube video to accompany it.

The most important aspect of the 2010 elections was the introduction of American like Presidential debates that the Britain saw for the first time. The debates were a huge success with around 9. 4 million people (Bamieh, 2010) tuning in to watch the debate. The new media then acted as a side tool with people tweeting and posting statuses. Tweetminster reported 184,396 tweets relating to the first debate, averaging over 29 tweets per second (and peaking during the debate at more than 41 tweets per second) (Bamieh, 2010).

Following on the steps of the 2008 elections in their neighbor country, Canadian parties and politicians made vital use of new media in the country’s elections in 2011. In Canada, the social media outlets have been utilized by parties to generate dialogues, channel electorate’s attention, educate voters, instigate online activity on portals, and connect with supporters. The Liberal party’s approach in the elections was to go all out and imaginative and make use of every possible social outlet to engage voters and mark their presence.

The Liberals linked Ignatieff ’s Facebook page with discussion groups and also offered readers the chance to ask questions, which few seemed interested in doing (Taras & Waddell). In contrast, the Conservative Party, which greatly increased its use of digital media from 2008, used a funneling strategy focusing on channeling the electorate’s attention and online activity to the party’s online portal, Tory Nation also using its portal as its primary means of connecting with supporters (Natalie, 2008).

The NDP used new media to educate its voters to increase its vote share while constantly emailing supporters. It also made use of Smartphone applications wisely by introducing an iPhone application named ‘Jack Layton’ which informed supporters about upcoming political events while also linking photos and videos of their leader’s tours regularly. Similarly, the Green Party also introduced an application and tried to educate its supporters about the party.

Unlike the other more recognizable parties, the Green Party was faced with the task of establishing itself as a legitimate alternative party and political force in Canadian politics and so its extensive use of digital media usage stemmed from its need to build awareness and to communicate its message outside mass media (Natalie, 2008). While, all the parties made use of Twitter vastly, the usage of Facebook and YouTube was surprisingly limited in their strategy. Most of the candidates including Stephen Harper and Ignatieff jumped and made use of the tweeting bandwagon.

Facebook didn’t attract nearly the same amount of media attention as Twitter, perhaps because parties and candidates used it mostly like any other one-way means of communication. Candidate and party Facebook sites were used primarily to distribute messages to voters but generated almost no debate and interaction with them about policies (Taras & Waddell). The party’s strategies in the 2011 elections in use of new media were not as bold and widely used to that of USA.

The parties used the new media as a side tool with all the parties doing a little but none of them doing enough to utilize the new media’s strengths fully. Conclusions In the three countries, the use of new media overall has allowed to facilitate a sense of community and a stronger connection between individuals and candidates. However, the extent and degree to which the parties in each country have utilized new media varies. While the USA has been the predominant leader due to its brave and innovative use of new media, Canada and Britain have been slowly accepting and dealing with this phenomenon.

Also, in the three countries, new media strategies are being used as old strategies in new and advanced forms. Email, websites and social media all played important roles but they were not game changers, simply additional tools that could be successfully deployed alongside other, more traditional methods (Williamson, 2010). Earlier, mass media played a similar role of interaction and engagement in politics. Now, new media allows for a greater extent of individual involvement and engagement through use of social media sites, online networking communities etc in the arena of politics.

This can also be portrayed from the idea that other factors in politics such as charisma, race, and identification still matter and have in fact become more important after the innovations and enhancements to media. For example, in the election of 2008, it was not just the smart use of new media that allowed for Obama’s success. Rather, it was a combination of his charismatic personality, his appearance as the first to be black President and his use of new media that led to his commendable success that year. In conclusion, new media is vital to the changing world of politics today.

It has transformed how we interact and stay informed about parties and their leaders. The new media has both its pros and cons and is widely used in America, Britain, and Canada. Thus, we all must accept the new media and incorporate it in our lives to better stay informed and connected.

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Use of New Media in Political Campaigning. (2017, Jan 19). Retrieved from

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