Obama's Internet Allies Plan Continued Engagement

By Roy Mark  |  Posted 2009-01-02

Obama's Internet Allies Plan Continued Engagement

One of the great unknowns heading into Barack Obama's presidency is the influence of the online legions that helped propel him into office. As president, will Obama be able to draw on the same forces he managed to mobilize into campaign engagement and activism through e-mail, text messaging and social media? After all, what works in an election doesn't necessarily translate to running a country.

According to a new survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, the answer is yes. Among surveyed online political users who voted for the Obama, 68 percent said they expect to press others to support the new administration's policies in the coming year. Not surprisingly, fully 25 percent of these engaged online activists said they will likely use the Internet to encourage others to support Obama's policy agenda in the year ahead.

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Obama's online supporters also expect some level of communication with the White House, with more than half surveyed (51 percent) expecting to have the same type of ongoing communications with Obama that they did during the campaign. Surveyed Obama supporters who use e-mail and social networking sites expect continued communication with the administration through these channels, and they expect the communications to occur with greater frequency than mail or telephone contacts.

"This year's presidential campaign witnessed unprecedented levels of online engagement in the political process as millions of ordinary citizens used the Internet to keep informed about politics, donate money, share their views, join communities built around shared interests or objectives, and mobilize others in support of their candidate," Pew said in its report. "In light of this level of online involvement during the election itself, more questions arise about the ability of the Obama team to translate its successful Internet political operations into new levels of engagement and activism when Obama assumes the presidency."

Obama's Internet Allies Plan Continued Engagement

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According to the Pew survey, prior online involvement during the presidential race is "strongly predictive" of online voter engagement during the transition process, and Obama's Internet-based supporters prove that point. Since Election Day, 15 percent of all online Americans have visited a Web site affiliated with the Obama transition effort, but 24 percent of online Obama voters have visited transition-related Web sites.

Among Obama voters who got campaign news and information online or who were politically active online during the campaign, 33 percent have gone online to track or discuss the transition process. In addition to visiting Web sites such as change.gov, 6 percent of online Obama voters have signed up to receive e-mail updates and an additional 5 percent have joined or participated in e-mail lists or online discussion groups.

In sharp contrast, among Obama voters who use the Internet but were not politically active during the campaign, just 4 percent have gone online to learn about or share their thoughts on the new administration.

Among Republicans, 10 percent have visited a transition site. As with Obama voters, Republican voters with prior exposure to the online political debate are much more heavily involved in online post-election efforts than GOP voters who use the Internet but are not engaged in the online political debate. Some 11 percent of politically engaged Internet users who supported Sen. John McCain have visited transition sites, compared with less than 1 percent of Republican voters who use the Internet but who are not politically active.

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