Cover Story: Political Direct Marketing 2004
Two months from now, President George W. Bush and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry will wage their final battle for the White House, capping off an emotionally charged, hard-driving election campaign that has seized American consciousness like no other.
To illustrate, consider that when George H.W. Bush ran for re-election against Bill Clinton in 1992, he didn’t mention him by name until July. And in 1996, Clinton didn’t mention Bob Dole by name until August. This time around, the candidates traded barbs as early as Super Tuesday in March.
In a presidential election with so much at stake, political operatives are relying more than ever on the Internet — to raise funds, deliver information in real time and mobilize voters. Never has the medium been so integral in the political process.
According to the 2004 study, Political Influentials Online in the 2004 Presidential Campaign, conducted by the Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet at the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University, 10 percent of the Internet public donated to a presidential campaign in December 2003.
During the 2004 presidential primaries, IPDI studied individuals who were involved in the campaigns through the Internet and found that they were disproportionately male, highly educated and earned above-average annual salaries. These people, defined as “Online Political Citizens,” tend to be more interested in news and politics than Americans in general, making them a uniquely attractive audience for political candidates.
While only about 2 percent of the American public and 7 percent of Internet users make political contributions online, the IPDI study showed that the people who are interested in politics and actively participate through the Internet have a considerably higher rate of contributing online — about 24 percent.
Democratic challenger John Kerry turned to the Internet in early July to name his running mate. Hours before he went public with the decision, Kerry e-mailed his choice of North Carolina Sen. John Edwards to more than 1 million individuals who signed up on his Web site, JohnKerry.com, marking the first time a candidate used the Internet for such a crucial announcement. According to reports, roughly 150,000 people signed up to receive the e-mail alert once Kerry told reporters that his Web site subscribers would be the first to hear the news.