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The Internet's Role in Political Campaigns

We recently completed a study that assesses the utilization of the Internet as a tool for 2006 political campaigns. The study, a follow-up of the 2002 version, examined how 2006 senatorial candidates used the Web to publicize information about their campaign platforms, personal backgrounds, and volunteer opportunities. We looked at a number of Web campaign tools and made comparisons based on party affiliations, importance of particular races, and whether candidates were incumbents or challengers.

The results clearly showed that while Web use by political candidates increased dramatically since 2002, politicians are still failing to take advantage of all the Internet has to offer. Ninety six percent of this year’s Senate candidates have active websites, while only 55 percent of candidates had websites in 2002. While most candidates use a set of core Web tools, the majority of candidates are refraining from using newer and more sophisticated Web strategies, such as blogs and podcasts, on their campaign websites. Only 23 percent of Senate candidates are blogging, just 15 percent offer Spanish alternatives to their websites, and an even smaller number of candidates, 5 percent, maintain podcasts. In contrast, between 90 percent and 93 percent of candidates offered biographies, contact information, and online donations on their websites. It is obvious from these results that despite a general increase in the use of the Internet for political campaigns, candidates are still hesitant to pour finite financial resources into new campaign strategies.

Read the study in its entirety (PDF).

View study data sheets (Excel).

Update: In the name of full disclosure, we do some work for the Republican Party and for a few Republican candidates, although it is not our primary focus. We mention this in the study, but I wanted to make this point more explicity. –Todd Zeigler

Update 2: Article in the Washington Post today on the use of database technology by incumbents –Rita Desai