In Box

Partying on the Web

If the recent midterm elections are any indication, political candidates in the United States don’t care much for the Web. In an ongoing study at http://www.politicalweb.info, political researchers Steven Schneider and Kirsten Foot find that as of mid-September, 71 percent of U.S. incumbents had launched a campaign Web site, while only 54 percent of challengers ...

If the recent midterm elections are any indication, political candidates in the United States don’t care much for the Web. In an ongoing study at http://www.politicalweb.info, political researchers Steven Schneider and Kirsten Foot find that as of mid-September, 71 percent of U.S. incumbents had launched a campaign Web site, while only 54 percent of challengers and 38 percent of third-party candidates had bothered to get wired. To make matters worse, Schneider and Foot find that only 2 percent of U.S. campaign sites allow visitors to submit comments, and only 1 percent have scheduled live online events. "The rational explanation," says Schneider, "would be that having a Web site doesn’t gain [the candidates] anything." Even e-democracy advocates like Steven Clift, founder of Democracies Online, acknowledge that campaign Web sites need to do a better job of encouraging the apathetic to participate in the political process.

For Clift and other e-democracy proponents, better news is emerging on the other side of the Atlantic. After surveying 134 political Web sites in Europe last year, Harvard political scientist Pippa Norris found signs that political parties are successfully drawing in voters with online services like e-mail feedback and discussion groups. The trend may be especially good news for small parties, whose pluralistic contribution Norris hails as important to effective democracy. "The more channels there are to distribute information, the more competitive minor parties can be," says Norris. Particularly effective European campaign sites include the Dutch Green Party and the nationalist Danish People’s Party. A comprehensive set of links to political party Web sites in more than 100 countries from Argentina to Zimbabwe can be found at http://www.electionworld.org.

Trending Now Sponsored Links by Taboola

By Taboola

More from Foreign Policy

By Taboola