As we approach the 2016 US Presidential Elections let’s take a few moments to review the evolution of US political campaigns. You would agree that all campaigns are in business to promote the messages of presidential candidates, motivate voters by canvassing in communities, and fundraise. Although many people volunteer in political campaign, a lot of money is spent on campaign staff and of course on advertisements. To this end, all campaigns must substantially fundraise in order to remain competitive. Below is a short summary that highlights the evolution of US political campaigns from the 20th to early 21st centuries.
Political campaigns made use of newspaper advertising, community meetings, and neighborhood canvassing. For the purposes of this blog let’s refer to the above as traditional political campaigning.
1950 – 2008
Advances in technology such as radio, television, and the Internet made political campaign messaging more accessible to voters. To this end, these technological advances gave rise to national advertisements such as Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1952 commercial Ike for President, John F. Kennedy’s 1960 commercial JFK Election Jingle, Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1964 commercial Daisy, Gerald Ford’s 1974 commercial Peace, Ronald Reagan’s 1984 commercial’s The Bear and Morning in America, George H.W. Bush’s 1988 commercial Revolving Door, and Bill Clinton’s 1992 commercial Hope.
Since the development of the Internet in the mid-90s, political campaigns developed campaign websites. Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that political campaigns made use of e-mails to fundraise. In many ways, the Internet and more so e-mail revolutionized political campaigns by allowing supporters who with the click of a mouse were able to read about the different political campaigns, connect with other supporters, get more involved with the campaign that resonated with them and of course donate. To this end, it would be safe to say that e-mail became the bread and butter of political campaigns.
2008 – present
The Internet is here to stay and so too is e-mail. In addition to e-mail, political campaigns since 2008 have made use of social media. You may recall that in IS6621 we discussed the Reply button of e-mail was the first form of social media. Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 political campaigns made better use of social media than John McCain and Mitt Romney respectively. Barack Obama had a greater social media presence on several platforms including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+ and Instagram than his rivals. Team Obama was surely ahead of its rivals in understanding that social media was a tool used to not only target messages to young people but also to seniors.
So what to expect in 2016?
For certain e-mail will arguably be the most integral part of political campaigning. CNN’s Digital Correspondent Tanzina Vega noted that for Obama’s 2012 political campaign “digital donations, through email and other outreach methods, accounted for more than $500 million in campaign contributions and two-thirds of that was via email. I expect that for 2016 Presidential elections, political campaigns will use different social media platforms to target their messages to specific demographics. Thus, candidates will use platforms such as Snapchat to target younger voters. Recently, we have seen how CNN condensed a 3 hour Republican debate into 180 seconds on Snapchat. We can expect candidates to pitch their campaigns to younger voters in similar fashion. Election pundits frequently argue than some candidates do a better job of connecting with voters than others. Platforms such as Instagram may very well equalize the political playing field in regards to connecting candidates with voters. Pictures can surely bring more exposure to candidates by highlighting their real selves to voters.