Virtual Vote: Social Networks Take /Polls to the People

Cape Times (South Africa), January 29, 2008 | Go to article overview

Virtual Vote: Social Networks Take /Polls to the People


BYLINE: David Sarno

LOS ANGELES: Not only are we going to Iowa, we're going to New Hampshire and South Carolina and Oklahoma and MySpace and Facebook.

In yet another sign that politics is going digital, two of the internet's largest states have played host to online presidential primaries - and more than a few citizens showed up to vote.

On January 1 and 2, MySpace welcomed more than 150 000 users to its virtual polling booths - one ballot per user, of course.

The results were released the day of the Iowa caucuses. Barack Obama took 46% of the Democratic vote, beating Hillary Rodham Clinton (31%) and absolutely dusting John Edwards (8%). On the Republican side, it was young-folk favourite Ron Paul (36%) doubling Rudy Giuliani (18%) and Mike Huckabee (16%).

No one's yet saying that a candidate's momentum online can carry him to victory at the polls. Even so, there's a growing recognition that social networks, invested with the power of peer influence - marketing's most sought-after quantity - are a campaigning tool like none before.

"Every campaign wants to get a yard sign on that house on the corner that everyone sees," said Jeff Berman, a senior public affairs executive at MySpace. On MySpace, those sought-after yards are owned by the social influencers who have hundreds or thousands of friends.

In the days following the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries, voter enthusiasm has bloomed online. On MySpace, many more user profiles are suddenly adorned with campaign buttons and bumper stickers, and on Facebook, you can't go an hour without a friend announcing to everyone that he is "following politics like it's sports! …

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