Technology in Politics

When it comes to campaigning, the American political process has changed very little – if at all – in more than two centuries.  Most often, the candidate who makes the best use of available technology comes out on top after the votes are counted.

To win, a candidate must build a connection with voters by conveying their message, building grassroots support, recruiting volunteers, requesting financial contributions and, most importantly, getting voters to get to the polls on Election Day to cast their vote.  While not altering the process, the internet and social media – such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube – have dynamically increased the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of performing these tasks.  

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The first politicians to successfully utilize modern technology, Franklin D. Roosevelt broadcast his radio series of “fireside chats” to the masses in an instant.  John F. Kennedy was the first to capitalize politically from television by relying on his confidence, youthful good-looks, beautiful family, and articulate oratory to win over American voters.  Additionally, Ronald Reagan was the first to use satellite technology to transmit live and prerecorded messages to campaign rallies and fundraisers all over the nation.

More recently, the internet is unquestionably the most dominant technological advancement in the way we communicate and interact.  Throughout both of his presidential campaigns, Barack Obama’s campaign was the most successful at using the internet and social media to connect with voters – especially young voters who are becoming an increasingly influential voting bloc.

Today, the internet is more influential than ever.  Increasingly, Americans are turning to smartphones which allow access to the internet not only at home or work, but almost everywhere and at any time.  According to Statista.com, eleven percent of all adults check their smartphone “every few minutes” while forty-one percent check it “a few times an hour.”

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From FDR to Obama, history has repeatedly demonstrated the importance of utilizing technology to campaign and relay information.  As more and more Americans rely on smartphones for the majority of their internet usage, political victory will be nearly impossible without first building a digital campaign that resonates with our current app-addicted society.