Virtual Town Hall Meetings Deliver for Candidates

30 10 2009

With election day just around the corner, another interesting campaign race comes to a close; a race which has only propelled the use of new media and emphasized its importance in reaching constituents and winning votes. We’ve seen an impressive show of politicians on Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites as well as taking new approaches on traditional campaign tactics. One example of this is the use of online town hall meetings to speak to and hear from constituents.

President Obama received attention for holding online town hall meetings last March in a continuous attempt at keeping alive his powerful grasp of new media that he displayed during the presidential election. The meeting features an address but most importantly an extensive question and answer session.

townhall

Mark Milan reported for the Los Angeles Times blog a few weeks ago about California gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom’s use of teleconferences and online meetings to discuss his policies with supporters and critics. It is an interesting approach because viewers are able to come and go at ease and the topics are often different from those that would be discussed in traditional press conferences or meetings, such as the large amount of question Newsom fielded on his policies concerning the decriminalization of marijuana. These online meetings also differ from traditional ones in the type of participant they attract; among the politically savvy activists you would expect to find at a press conference or townhall meeting, online conferences appeal to apathetic and displeased citizens as well.

Despite the low viewer rates these online meetings have had, Mike Sachoff of WebProNews published a post just days ago discussing the beneficial impact that they have on campaigns and politicians. Sachoff reported compelling statistics suggesting that the simple ability to interact with a candidate and get questions answered actually increases the chance that the participant will vote for the candidate by 56%, proving that moving the political discussion and the campaign race online is not only helpful but essential in modern politics.

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