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The Impact of Web-based Communication on Elections and Political Policy Making

Two million fans, 200 000 offline events, 35 000 interest groups, 400 000 blogs, $30 million dollars raised and MyBarackObama.com and a win; these are the results of Facebook co-founder’s Chris Hughes involvement in Barack Obama’s campaign (Schonfeld). This Web outreach campaign paints a perfect picture of the imporance the web for politics. In the 21st century, web-based communication plays a vital role on elections and political policy making.

This essay paper discusses the impact of web-based communication on the political sphere, including the use of the internet as well as information communication technologies (ICTs) for web-campaigning, transfer of information, and changing levels of public support. Although there are many benefits of web-based communication in this sense, there are still limitations, barriers and problems associated with this phenomenon.

The web has made it possible for people to engage in many processes such as obtaining information, deliberating and participating in desicion-making (Oates 33). These three actions precede eachother respectively. People can now log on to websites developed by government institutions, political parties, campaigning groups, and on-line news services and learn about policies and personalities 24 hours a day (Oates 34). However, critics believe that those people who did not engage in information gathering through traditional mediums such as television and news print are just as likely not to engage in the online delivery of information as well, in turn losing out on opportunities to learn and practice vital argumentative skills.

While the public obtains information, simultaneously, it is the web campaign of the politicians that is the courier of this information. A web page often requires the use of more party workers but it can ensure greater exposure in traditional media. The web converts into votes by a varitey of mechanisms, directly and indirectly. Indirectly, mass media is provided with contact information for the purpose of TV, radio and print publication of interviews and news stories, which then is communicated to the public, this theory is supported by the correlation between having a website and spending time on interviews (Gibson, and McAllister). Directly, voters are affected by accessing election related information via the internet. Nevertheless, findings show that only 10% of people use the internet for this purpose (Gibson, and McAllister).

In regards to engagement in deliberation and desicion making, the limitations are evident. For instance, it is possible that the more involved citizens become in online communication, the less involved they will be in public meetings, where important events such as fundraisers occur. Nevertheless, web-based communication can help bridge the evergrowing gap between the people and government, currently filled with increasing bureacracy, influencing corporations and a variety of lobbyists. An example of this is UK based FaxyourMP.com which enables anyone to send a letter to their local MP in a spontaneous and informal manner. Perhaps the most important part of the electoral process, which is descion-making, or voting, is also majorly affected. Web communication allows for more convenience, a faster vote counting process, and the evident potential for highter voter turn out. Although these benefits are large, they are coupled with concerns such as the secrecy of the voting act, security of votes and counting systems, and voter access to technology (Oats 35).

The impact of web communication on political involvement is great in volume and importance. The way political groups approach political learning, event planning, fundraising, and voting is much different in the 21st century. Concerns about the electoral process turning to new technologies for a boost in the public’s involvement are numerous. The idea that web media will only communicate those messages that the public can consume is considered psychologically, physiologically, and ecnomically unrealistic (Graber), which means that there is bound to be a lot of miscommunication. Furthermore, the availability of information does not necessarily relate to better decision making among the public. More information usually means more choices, concerns and option, which requires more involvement of governing officials. Nevertheless, as demonstrated by Mr. Obama, the proper application of web communication can be the difference between losing and winning an election.