The Role of New Media in the Political Process

New Media technologies like weblogs, social bookmarking or news aggregation sites (Digg, Reddit,, social networking sites (MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn), and video sharing sites (YouTube, Veoh, Jibjab) have had many profound effects on societies where the internet and World Wide Web are prevalent. Particularly in the United States, new media have been increasingly influential in the political process in recent years. Whether it be a journalist blogging about a candidate, supporters creating amateur fan videos, or a candidate creating a profile, new media have become hard to ignore as a method of communication among candidates and constituents.

New media plays many roles in American politics. They can act as a venue for self-expression or a vehicle for voters to reach out to politicians. They can also offer politicians a way of making more information available to the public at minimal cost. Finally, new media provide a platform for political discourse on the web among the public, journalists, and candidates. The various technologies that make up new media can affect politics in any or all of these ways.

Amateur productions

Thanks to new media technologies, average citizens now have the opportunity to get more involved politically by voicing their opinions on several new platforms like YouTube, citizen blogs, and websites. Youtube, a popular video website that started in 2005, is starting to grow into an outlet for political grassroots and many citizens are now turning to the website in order to post their own videos in support of their candidate. For instance, two popular amateur productions known as “I got a crush…on Obama” and “Vote Different” are great examples of grassroot activities that received national media attention during the 2008 presidential election. Grassroots organizations have also created websites to try to reach politicians and to help rally support for their causes. They have utilized the technology that new media has to offer by including fundraising applications, phone applications, news feed options, blogs etc. on their actual websites. With these advanced websites, grassroots organizations have been able to increase supporter mobilization and enhanced their reach of supporters in more ways than ever before.

Politicians building platforms

Politicians themselves have also taken advantage of the internet and have developed their own websites and applications (completely innovative or similar to existing platforms) to increase their accessibility to the public. Such examples include a politician's individual website or homemade social networking software respectively. These platforms are a great way for politicians to stay connected with his or her supporters and allow the candidate to maintain an online presence. More and more politicians are incorporating these aspects of new media into their campaigns and are finding success. These are unique platforms that show that a politician is willing to change his campaign strategy in order to keep up with new media.


Each candidate in the 2008 presidential election has maintained a blog that has served a variety of purposes. Hillary Clinton's blog,, has quotes that Senator Clinton has made that pertain to relevant current events, as well as comments made by supporters. Barack Obama's blog on has photo slide shows (courtesy of Flickr) and YouTube videos from the campaign trail. John McCain's blog also contains mainly YouTube videos and campaign trail updates. What the candidates decide to post on their blogs can sometimes reveal what issues they think are important and what audiences they are targeting.

Social Networks

During the 2008 pimaries, Obama launched his social network (in response to Howard Dean's work with to help his supporters organize events and stay active locally which so far seems to have helped his campaign. Other candidates have followed Obama's lead, such as McCain with his online community called McCainSpace.


Candidates have been using various alternative means of reaching the public over the years. Whereas traditionally candidates have organized mass telephone calls directed at registered voters to lobby for support through donations, email listserves that provide campaign updates and direct voters to candidate websites have become common. The purpose of these emails and websites is generally to encourage people to get involved in a support group (Veterans For McCain, Women for McCain, Young America for Edwards), donate to a campaign, get more information about a candidate, find out about local events, and register to vote.

Politicians using platforms

Third party products such as, blogs, play an important role in the political discourse on the web and have changed the way both politicians and the public approach the political process.


Political blogs can include those which are managed by independent entities or by politicians, but no matter which way they are run, blogs serve as outlets for political discussion. Blogging has increased over the past years as citizens are turning to them get informed on the latest campaign gossip and candidates themselves are now blogging to keep up with supporters. Blogs are a unique way to reach the voting population and definitely come with their advantages but at the same time, there are also some risks involved with this aspect of new media. It is clear, however, that blogs have altered the political process. One of the most popular political blogs was Howard Dean's Blog for America.

Social Networks

Social networking sites have played an especially important role in the 2008 presidential campaign. Presidential candidates Clinton, McCain, and Obama have profiles on networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace, on which they explain their platforms and reach out to the general public. The candidates' online profiles have allowed high school and college students to learn more about the presidential hopefuls in an Internet medium. In addition, with partnerships such as the one between Facebook and ABC News, social networking sites have given the general public the opportunity to discuss the presidential election with people from all over the country and the world.[1]


Candidates have also utilized sites such as YouTube, Flickr, Digg, and Twitter. Obama has been particularly successful in using these applications, as he has his own YouTube user profile, Flickr photostream, and Twitter account. Obama's campaign also mobilizes supporters by sending mass text messages to them, encouraging them to vote in future primaries.[2]

1. News, ABC. "ABC News Joins Forces with Facebook." ABC News. December 16, 2007
2. Davies, Frank. "The Race Online: Obama, Rivals Bring Internet Campaigning to New Level." McClatchy-Tribune Business News. February 24, 2008.
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