An interesting piece from the American Campaigns & Elections site which acts as a salutary reminder that, for all the impressiveness of Obama and his use of the internet, there’s rather more to campaigning:
Two recently released surveys on how Americans perceive brands and make decisions gives us geeky political junkies an idea of how different campaign tactics work to win votes. The first survey, released by Harris Interactive last week, indicates that while adults “use a mixture of traditional media and new media, including those that would constitute ‘push’ (advertising and websites) and ‘pull’ (information from neutral, informal communication),” Americans are persuaded (and informed) most by face-to-face communication.
This means that the time, the resources and the importance the campaign places on attracting Facebook friends, posting video-blog clips and tweeting every move the candidate makes still cannot move voters the way volunteers knocking on doors can. A closer look at the survey data shows that younger voters—those you would expect to be most swayed by the widget, blog and tweet strategy—are even more moved by face-to-face communication than their older counter-parts despite being heavier users of Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and Twitter. This is a strong reason to keep door-to-door at the top of your campaign’s priority list!
The second survey that caught my eye last week, released by WorkPlace Media, reveals that Americans’ perception of a brand remains largely unchanged by social network presence. This reinforces the necessity of traditional media (TV, radio and direct mail) and face-to-face communications (events and door-to-door) as the primary method to build your candidate’s brand. Your campaign’s social network and web presence will only reinforce the candidate’s brand perception and does little to actually frame it.
Before anyone rushes to junk their website and laugh in the face of the nearest Twitterer, it’s worth remembering the interlinked nature of online and offline campaigning.
There’s plenty of evidence from the UK too that the internet is a very limited tool when it comes to reaching large national audiences of voters. But what it’s really powerful for are reaching local audiences – many councillors, for example, have email lists for residents running in the hundreds when they themselves are also elected by vote totals in the hundreds – and for reaching particular key audiences such as members, possible members and the media. They in turn get to voters: through the door knocking, leaflet delivery, newspaper stories, radio interviews and so on.
The internet works best where it is a supplement to traditional campaigning, just as leafleting and canvassing both work best when they supplement to each other.