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The Internet’s Impact on Mainstream Politics

At a time when political engagement appears to be waning, hope is emerging that democratic participation may be revived and enhanced through the use of Internet technology. E-democracy seems to be transforming socio-political behavior and influencing political agendas and debate.

Change is occurring on several political fronts. Political candidates are adapting their campaigns to take advantage of Internet technology such as weblogs. Social software embedded in sites such as MeetUp.com, have helped some candidates ride a wave of grassroots support. Direct democracy, facilitated by deliberative polling sites, is amplifying public opinion in policy discussions and media coverage.

Some continue to doubt the democratic impact of such emerging technologies, even as reports of new applications grow. For example, online grassroots campaigns have been credited with shaping the course of two political conflicts in the U.S. In the fall of 2003, the Senate passed a joint resolution of disapproval in an effort to overturn the FCC’s relaxed media ownership rules, and the House and Senate voted on language disapproving the Bush administration’s proposed changes to overtime rules. Online grassroots organization MoveOn.org was a key player in the FCC campaign, while organized labor’s grassroots campaign on the overtime vote was aided by a system in which a union member “only had to hit a button” to send an e-mail opposing the Bush administration’s proposed changes. In South Korea, online campaigns have affected a presidential election and shifted government policy on the nuclear standoff. In a town in the Netherlands, a website was credited with helping to shut down a soy factory that had been expanding and polluting the neighborhood for years.


Emergent Democracy by Joichi Ito

The World’s First Internet President Logs On by Jonathan Watts

Grassroots Growing Fast in Cyberspace: Web adds pressure on U.S. lawmakers by Klaus Marre

Internet: Viagra for Political Engagement? by Jan Stayaert

Visit the Site that Has all of Capital Hill Talking by Catherine Brosche

Social Software—Get Real by Martin Perks

Wired for Politics? Researchers Examine Internet's Impact by Carey Hoffman

You Don’t Know Me But…Social Capital and Social Software by iSociety

The Impact of the Internet on the Politics of Cuba by Andy Williamson

The Political Impact of the Internet by Ronald Meinardus



25 Who Are Changing the World of Internet and Politics

e-Democracy International

The World-Wide e-Democracy Projects Page

The Hansard Society e-Democracy Programme


The Internet in the 2004 Presidential Campaign

Over the past few months, news of the Internet in the 2004 democratic presidential primary campaigns found its way into the headlines of the mainstream media. Some news stories credited the very existence of the Dean and Clark campaigns to online organizing and fundraising and predicted that Howard Dean’s decentralized and highly networked campaign had forever changed the face of politics. While the full effect of new communication technologies on campaigning remains unknown, the internet strategies have emerged as powerful organizing, networking, and fundraising tools.



Over the summer of 2003, several candidates followed Howard Dean’s lead and created weblogs to facilitate two-way communication among supporters and between a campaign and its supporters. Blogs act as up-to-date information sources, encouraging deliberation through open commenting policies, and functioning as network hubs because of the many links they display.

Howard Dean’s weblog

Wesley Clark’s weblog

A tool that allows Dean’s supporters to find other Dean supporters in their area

DeanSpace – “an open development community providing powerful web-tools, quality support, and expert advice to Howard Dean's grassroots supporters. [Its] goal is to better interlink existing web activism, bring new citizen participants into the political process, and assist individuals to network and organize for taking action in Howard Dean's presidential grassroots campaign.”


Articles on Blogs and Internet Use in Campaigns

Presidential Candidates use Blogs to Communicate – an article on blog use in the 2004 presidential election from the Center for the Study of American Government at Johns Hopkins University

A large collection of news articles on internet use in the 2004 presidential primaries



Meetup is an online tool that organizes local interest groups. It began as a place for people with common hobbies, interests, musical likes, and gaming preferences to connect online and then meet up in the real world. However, since the spring of 2003 when Dean first brought it into his campaign, several candidates have used Meetup to turn online networking into real-world action. Supporters of a candidate register to attend a Meetup in their area, vote on a venue, and then show up to work towards furthering their chosen candidate’s campaign. Meetups happen once a month.



Dean’s Use of Meetup

Meetup has been instrumental in bringing large numbers of supporters into Dean’s campaign and in creating a broad grassroots support network. By early November 2003, Dean’s Meetup had over 140,000 registered participants. By encouraging Meetups, Dean partially turned over control of his campaign to his grassroots supporters in a unique move that abandoned a more traditional and hierarchical campaign structure.

Dean’s Meetup


2004 Democratic Primary Candidate Websites


2004 George W. Bush Campaign Site