[IWAR] INTERNET political influence

From: Michael Wilson (MWILSON/0005514706at_private)
Date: Thu Jan 15 1998 - 10:55:52 PST

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       Posted at 8:06 a.m. PST Thursday, January 15, 1998 
                    Net sites may influence elections, cybergurus say
       Scripps Howard News Service
       WASHINGTON -- Growing use of the Internet for political campaigns is
       being touted by cyber specialists as the newest and most dynamic weapon
       since John F. Kennedy used televised debates to win the presidency
       almost 40 years ago. Although some members of Congress have had Web
       sites since 1994, the 1998 election year is expected to be the first
       where computer technology could be a deciding factor in some races.
       ``For the first time, all of the technological, demographic and
       political factors have converged to the point that elections, even if
       only a few, will be won or lost because what politicians do or don't do
       on the Internet,'' said Phil Noble of PoliticsOnline, which publishes a
       biweekly report on political Internet use.
       Three years ago, only half the members of the House could be reached by
       computer. Today, all but eight of the 535 members of the House and
       Senate have computer electronic mail boxes.
       Two years ago, 35 million people reported having access to the Internet,
       according to research by the University of California at Santa Barbara.
       Last year, that number jumped to 55 million. In 1996, for the first
       time, American consumers spent more on computers they did on
       televisions, according to the Electronics Industries Association.
       ``In 1960, television grew up when John F. Kennedy took advantage of the
       medium and, in turn, became president,'' Noble said in a recent speech
       at the National Press Club. ``Now in 1998, the Internet audience is
       Other political observers caution that computer owners shouldn't dream
       of casting their ballot with a click of the mouse just yet. Only one out
       of 10 American voters is connected to the Internet, according to
       research by non-partisan public affairs organizations, such as THOMAS
       with the Library of Congress and the U.S. League of Women Voters. And
       users tend to be upper middle-class males, the surveys show.
       But politicians with Internet sites are lured by another factor: one out
       of three Internet voters contributed money to political campaigns,
       according to the League survey. And computer savvy candidates who can
       quickly organize support and contact the media through the Internet will
       have an edge over those who can't.
       ``It creates an ability for us to get information directly into the
       hands of our constituents immediately,'' said Tony Rudy, an aide to
       House Republican Whip Tom DeLay of Texas, whose Internet site was voted
       ``Best in Congress'' by PoliticsOnline.
       Even if 1998 isn't the election year when computers replace television
       as a chief medium to grab voters, the concept is much closer to reality.
       ``Unlike 1994, virtually all politicians on Capitol Hill now have Web
       sites and most are integrating the Internet into their campaign,'' Noble
       said. ``For now, we're just waiting to see who will be the first John
       Kennedy of the Internet.''
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