~Technopolitical editor's note:~~
~~ In the 2000 Congressional races the Internet played a debatable role in overall election strategies. E-Advocates (a firm that manages online campaigns) and Juno Online Services (hosts of many campaign websites @ www.juno.com ) ---- and who are by no means unbiased observers---- did a post-2000 election study of Congressional candidates and their websites. I want to quote from their finding summary first and then highlight what I see to be the holes in their arguments.
“In Campaign 2000, challengers who won tight congressional races against incumbents also won the battle of the Web, according to a post-election review of congressional candidate Web sites by e-advocates.com and Juno Online Services, Inc. The study found that in the 8 toss-up U.S. House and Senate races where a challenger won, an overwhelming majority – 75 percent – employed a superior Web strategy, as defined by online voters in a February 2000 e-advocates/Juno survey and candidate rankings on top search engines. Additionally, in seven out of the eight races, the winning challenger raised less money than the losing incumbent – an anomaly in the results of all congressional races nationwide”.
It is my firm believe based on experience as a political professional, that core organization of any campaign's staffing and activist base is the most important factor –--even over money--- in any successful election run or lobby-issue crusade. The fact that the less-funded challengers with effective websites fared better than those without effective websites, more than likely means that these campaigns were simply more energetic and better organized to turn out their voting supporters. It is not so much that their website helped them win, but that producing a solid website was reflective of good core organization. Richard Davis correctly asserts that "the Web plainly is less useful than, say, direct mail or newsletters"  in getting out information about a campaign and/or candidate. And until the digital divide is completely closed in the
The message that the Internet can only play a small supporting role in winning election campaigns seems to have registered with Congressional candidates in the upcoming 2002 elections. A study by the Bivings Group shows that as of March 2002 “only 29 percent of Senators and Representatives up for election in 2002, have clearly marked campaign websites.”  The same study put Republicans as better equipped in using the Internet to energize their bases, and for adding to those numbers. So as of now the GOP is winning this Cyber-Electioneering arms race and only a post-mortum of the 2002 race will tell if it will also translate into electoral victories.
I do plan to do a follow up when that scorecard is in. For there are on the horizon in this year's 2002 elections several trials of voter-peer-to-peer Cyber-Electioneering [sort of like phone-tress but in cyber-space], and the experimentation with techno-real-time monitoring of voter turnout on election day, possibly enabling elections campaigns to better target election day voter pulls as the day progresses. As we have seen in the 2000 American Presidential elections every vote can count (---unless the Supreme Court says no---) so any cyber-tools that may get you additional votes will eventually find their way into the permanent arsenals of election campaigns. (We will see if any of the above mentioned cyber-electioneering "experiments" become worth writing about after the 2002 election.)
e-advocates/Juno Post-Election Review Finds Net Savvy Challengers Defeat Incumbents.
In Toss-Up Races, Congressional Challengers
Used the Web to Advantage
WASHINGTON, Nov. 20 /PRNewswire/ --
In Campaign 2000, challengers who won tight congressional races against incumbents also won the battle of the Web, according to a post-election review of congressional candidate Web sites by e- advocates and Juno Online Services, Inc. (Nasdaq: JWEB).
The study found that in the 8 toss-up U.S. House and Senate races where a challenger won, an overwhelming majority -- 75 percent -- employed a superior Web strategy, as defined by online voters in a February 2000 e-advocates/Juno survey and candidate rankings on top search engines. Additionally, in seven out of the eight races, the winning challenger raised less money than the losing incumbent -- an anomaly in the results of all congressional races nationwide.
Among winning challengers in toss-up House and Senate races, all had Web sites that provided information and features desired by voters online, including issue statements, campaign e-mail addresses, volunteer and online contribution opportunities, and online voter registration capabilities.
. Eighty-eight percent of winning challengers provided issue statements that could provide the basis for voters to compare candidates, a feature desired by 79 percent of Internet users. Sixty-three percent of winning challengers provided campaign e-mail addresses, a feature of interest to 73 percent of Internet users.
All victorious challengers provided Internet users with the ability to volunteer with their campaigns online, a feature identified as important by 13 percent of Internet users, and 88 percent of winning challengers gave Internet users the ability to make campaign contributions online, a feature of interest to 7 percent of Internet users
. Thirty-eight percent of winning challengers offered online voters the ability to register to vote online, a feature of interest to 42 percent of Internet users.
"Today's savvy candidates aren't just going door-to-door, they're connecting with voters desktop to desktop," said Pam Fielding, principal, e- advocates. "With 59 percent of U.S. adults now online, no candidate in a tight race can afford to ignore the Web -- or the needs of e-voters," said Nicole Duritz, also a principal, e-advocates.
The firms also tested the ranking of candidate sites with top search engines -- an important strategy for campaigns to connect with online voters.
The search engine test found that 75 percent of winning challengers in tight races achieved a first-page, search-engine ranking with at least three of the four major engines as identified by Media Metrix -- Yahoo, MSN, AOL, and Lycos. Reviewers gave candidates a successful rating with a search engine if, after entering their first and last names into the search field, the search engine provided a link to the candidates' official campaign Web sites on the first page of the search results.
In seven out of the eight races analyzed by e-advocates and Juno, the winning challenger raised less money than the losing incumbent.
According to Federal Election Commission (FEC) data analyzed by U.S. PIRG and reported in an unrelated study, only seven percent of winning congressional candidates nationwide raised less money than their opponents. Michael Cornfield, George Washington University Associate Research Professor and Research Director of George Washington University's Democracy Online Project, observed that the findings suggest a strong Internet strategy can "help financial underdogs gain better footing."
"Election 2000 will go down in history as the first presidential cycle where the Net played a decisive role in political campaigns.
Candidates and elected officials who underestimated the virtual voter were likely to suffer for it," said Roger Stone, Vice President of Juno Online Services and director of the Juno Advocacy Network, Juno's Washington D.C.-based public interest and political advertising division.
To view a chart detailing candidate Internet performance, please visit http://www.e-advocates.com/survey .
The U.S. Senate race for Washington State remains undecided and, for this reason, is not included in the analysis.
e-advocates, based in Washington, DC, is a full-service Internet advocacy consulting firm dedicated to helping public affairs and advocacy organizations harness the power of the Internet to achieve legislative and political priorities.
Principals Pam Fielding and Nicole Duritz are leading experts in the field of cyberpolitics. Fielding is coauthor of the recently published book, The Net Effect: How Cyberadvocacy is Changing the Political Landscape, which highlights how the Internet is reconnecting citizens with government. e-advocates is a subsidiary of Capitol Advantage, the premier innovator of Internet-based political tools and services.
Through the use of its products, hundreds of organizations have promoted their agenda and influenced the political process by engaging individuals in political dialogue. Survey results can be viewed at http://www.e-advocates.com/survey . To reach Pam Fielding and Nicole Duritz for comment, please call 202/955-3001.
Juno Online Services, Inc. is a leading provider of Internet access to millions of computer users throughout the United States
Founded in 1996, the company provides multiple levels of service, including free basic Internet access, billable premium dial-up service, and (in certain markets) high-speed broadband access. Juno's revenues are derived primarily from the subscription fees charged for its billable premium services, from the sale of advertising, and from various forms of electronic commerce.
Based on its total of 3.7 million active subscribers during the month of September 2000, Juno is currently the nation's third largest provider of dial- up Internet services, after AOL and EarthLink. As of September 30, 2000, Juno had approximately 12.77 million total registered subscriber accounts.
in association with The Gale Group and LookSmart. COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group