Republicans Missing Social Media Train?

In a column for The Politico, David All argues that the Republicans’ comparatively poor showing in online fundraising and presence on social networking sites like mySpace and Facebook indicates a need to catch up fast.

To head off electoral catastrophe, Republicans should take immediate steps to improve their technological game. They can begin by creating a nationwide network of state and local blogs. Democrats, after all, proudly tout their legions of “blogging boots on the ground,” which feed political intelligence back to a central outlet. From that central feed, thousands of blogs throughout the nation echo the narrative, driving news stories and changing the political landscape. Republicans can and should do the same to better tap into niche markets of supporters who are willing to fight the battle — wherever it is.

To better leverage the power of collaborative fundraising, Republicans should also follow the example of the left wings ActBlue.com. There, Democratic candidates from City Hall to the White House can create an account to direct funds to their cause. ActBlue allows its users to find supporters wherever they assemble — not just at the partys website.

While I’m still skeptical of most of the social networking sites and think mySpace is mostly for kids, Facebook and some of the others are quickly catching on among political professionals. Whether this will have a major impact on 2008, I don’t know.

Still, as Aaron Brazell argued earlier, “Social Media is the wave of the future.” Even if, as I suspect, the 18- to 24-year-olds networking on Facebook don’t turn into a major voting block next year, they’ll be 22- to 27-year-olds in 2012 and 26- to 31-year-olds in 2016. And they live online. It certainly makes sense to figure out how to reach them now.

That’s especially true when one considers the latest Pew research on youth voting trends.

Pew Chart Young Voters Trending Democrat

Young people are increasingly identifying with the Democrats. Now, this is mostly due to genuine policy differences on military and social issues and partly due to the popularity of Bill Clinton and the unpopularity of George W. Bush than effectiveness of outreach. Still, it’s undeniable that the Democrats have done a much better job of reaching out to young activists online.

UPDATE: I swear there was a reputable survey this week that showed youth identification trending Democrat. The above study, sadly, isn’t it.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. […] UPDATE 2:04 PM: James Joyner has weighed in on my column. The thrust of James’ argument is that he’s still skeptical about social media, but that he’s pretty sure it’s only Gen Nexters using the technology. Of course, he’s right that Republicans are losing the Gen Next vote, and when we lost our majorities in the House and Senate by a mere 82K votes, I think it matters. But despite conventional misinformation, studies actually show that most voters who use the Internet for a source of news are ABOVE the age of 25. […]

  2. jeff b says:

    The public face of the Republican party at the federal level consists nearly exclusively of convicts, ex-convicts, the yet-to-be-convicted, and closeted homosexual predators. The entire administration is openly corrupt starting at the top and going down at least four levels deep in the management tree. So why would anyone, young or old, self-identify with that party?

  3. Triumph says:

    I would recommend that you and Aaron read Prior’s AJPS article from July 2005, “News vs. Entertainment: How Increasing Media Choice Widens Gaps in Political Knowledge and Turnout”

    His basic argument is that even though voters have many more sources of information at their disposal, it has no impact on turnout. He measures voters’ content preference and argues that it is more predictive of voting behavior. If people are more apt to be interested in entertainment content, they are less likely to vote.

    Your chart on party preferences has nothing to do with technology, per se, nor voting. Additionally, you mis-state the chart itself–the chart does not reflect “youth voting trends.” It reflects party identification and is not limited to any age bracket (other than the over-18 universe of respondents).

    In fact, the Pew Study–which is not a study of likely voters–shows that levels of voter estrangement with the government are at record levels.

    There is no social science work to suggest that social networking sites has any impact on voter participation.

  4. legion says:

    So why would anyone, young or old, self-identify with that party?

    The same reason so many grads went into finance & got MBAs in the 80s – they want a shot at that long green.

    Of course, just like most of them over-saturated that market, and then missed the boat on the dot-com boom in the 90s, they too will have missed the peak of GOP power & influence… by the time they have any status in this party, American voters will have so thoroughly rejected the moral cesspit of the (modern) GOP, they will all be tagged as talentless sycophants & live out their lives in shame.

    At least, that’s how it happens in my world…

  5. Steve Plunk says:

    Legion,

    As a Republican I would like to hear more of this “moral cesspit”. We could battle with degenerates from each side but I’d rather see a more rational response. Perhaps the party platform or history of legislation supporting such a statement.

    The Pew results merely reinforce the quote, I believe it was Churchill, those who are not a liberal at twenty have no heart while those not a conservative at forty have no brain.

  6. Tano says:

    James,

    The graph you present represents party preference for all voters, not just youth.

    All age groups are moving to the Democrats – hardly surprising given the GOP track record in governance.

  7. superdestroyer says:

    The reason that Republicans are failing is that they are the party of private sector middle class whites. That is a small group that is getting smaller. Unlimited immigrations along with the birthrates of Hispanics and blacks will ensure that the Democratic Party will the one, dominate party in the U.S.

    Of course, on of the results will be that the percentage of Americans that receive significant income due to the government will probably go from 50% to 75%.

    If you want to see the future of U.S. politics just look at either California or Maryland.

  8. anjin-san says:

    James,

    You should check out the demographic profile of Myspace users, you might be surprised. Its an older crowd then one might think.

    Steve,

    Re: Churchill. Depends on how you define conservative, something I think Mr. Bush most definitely is not. My guess is Churchill would have puked on Bush or thrashed him, possibly both.

  9. […] The “Are Republicans Behind Online?” conversation produced another handful of posts today.  David All started things back up with a column in the Politico.  Mike Turk weighed in and then weighed in again with the thinking behind shutting down the RNC’s Team Leader program (which I helped build).   Patrick Ruffini put in his two cents as did James Joyner (who coincidentally I watched on a panel today in LA.) […]

  10. Triumph says:

    I swear there was a reputable survey this week that showed youth identification trending Democrat. The above study, sadly, isn’t it.

    Don’t you think you should strike-through “That’s especially true when one considers the latest Pew research on youth voting trends. Young people are increasingly identifying with the Democrats.”??

    Even if there “was a reputable survey” the one you cite has little to do with your intial claims. It seems odd that it was included in the first place.