IT in political campaigns


When we think about the elections, the first image that appears in our mind are probably stadiums and concert halls full of people yelling during hours the slogan of their favorite candidate and debates viewed by millions of people during the American presidential campaign. But the last two decades a new campaign instrument appeared: IT. In most of the countries, IT is a new campaign instrument and has to be managed by the campaign teams as a useful tool to improve the popularity of a candidate or avoid the destruction of the reputation of a candidate.

From country to country, the campaigns benefit form IT for different objectives. In general, they use it for a better advertisement strategy and interactions between the potential voters and the candidates. In the USA, it is also used to target small sponsors.

Among all them, four findings can be deduced:

  1. Increase in use of social media
  2. Increase in budget for digital campaigns
  3. Digital campaign is more effective for individual politicians than for political parties
  4. Big Data to better target the different groups of voters

In the recent years, more and more politicians or political parties are active on social media. One of the principal reasons is that communication experts and spin doctors have made of the internet their new play garden. With the appearance of new social media tools, they wanted to follow the flow. Also, a large part of the target audience (In Belgium, more than 60% of the +18 years) has an account on one or more social media. Facebook and Twitter have special teams to attract and support political campaigns their social media platform.

During the US presidential campaign of 2008, Romney and Obama spent around 10% of their campaign budget in digital campaigns. In opposition to the expenses in TV-spot (+/- 70% of campaign budget), this sounds light. Many political scientists suppose that the 2016-campaign will be more digital. It is difficult to estimate in advance. A first example is Donald Trump. His expenses in social media and digital campaign are huge and it even has a great responsibility in this current popularity. For a European example, we can consider the 2014-campaign of the NV-A, a Flemish nationalist right wing party, used intensively social media and more precisely Youtube to promote their five core ideas. This was translated in a spectacular win.

Political campaigns are like marketing campaigns. To win an election, you have to create a product that sells. In most of them, this product is a politician. By comparing campaigns who focus on political parties and individuals, there is a significant correlation between the digital campaigns focusing on individual and the results. So, it is better to create a digital campaign around one person. People need to recognize a face linked to an idea, not ideas linked to faces.

In the UK, the conservatives used extensively Big Data in 2015 national campaign to target the different groups. This appearance is relatively new. Lobbies and think tanks help political parties in analyzing those data and to re-translate this in the campaign strategies. The data is mostly provided by the voters during polls on the internet.

In a few words, it can be concluded that the importance of digital campaigns is going upward. Internet has become a place where a large number of voters are presented. However, we do not attain the limits for the moment and the impact of using IT in political campaigns will evolve the following decades.

References:

Doubek, J., (2015). Political Campaigns goes Social, but Email is still the king.  http://www.npr.org/sections/itsallpolitics/2015/07/28/426022093/as-political-campaigns-go-digital-and-social-email-is-still-king, consulted on the 7/10/2015

Douglas, J. (2012). Political Campaigns and Digital Marketing Trends. http://www.bluespiremarketing.com/blog/november-2012/political-campaigns-and-digital-marketing-trends, 7/10/2015

Gilmore, J., & Howard, P., (2013). Does Social Media has an Impact on Political Campaigns: Digital Dividends in Brazil’s 2010 election. http://ccce.com.washington.edu/projects/assets/working_papers/Does%20Social%20Media%20Make%20a%20Difference%20in%20Political%20Campaigns.pdf, consulted on the 7/10/2015

Howard, P., (2005). Deep Democracy, Thin Citizenship: The Impact of Digital Media in Political Campaign Strategy. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 597, 153-170

Lapowsky, I., (2015). Political Ad Spending Online Is About To Explode. http://www.wired.com/2015/08/digital-politcal-ads-2016/, consulted on the 7/10/2015

Passport to trade 2.0., (2014). Social Media Guide for Belgium. http://businessculture.org/western-europe/business-culture-in-belgium/social-media-guide-for-belgium/, consulted on the 7/10/2015

Quipp, J., (2015). What Political Campaigns Need To Learn From Digital Marketers. http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/jeff-quipp/election-campaigns_b_7648490.html, consulted on the 7/10/2015

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