Note: The data provided in this article is accurate as of 0330 GMT on October 29, 2007.
When Barack Obama accepted the Democratic Nomination on August 29, his chances against McCain seemed grim. The Republican machine was growing stronger and the Democrats seemed bitterly divided over their party’s candidate.
Obama was facing an even steeper challenge back in 2007 when he declared that he would run for President. Not many fancied the chances of an African-American senator from Illinois securing the Democratic nomination, let alone making it to the White House.
Now, just a few days before the decisive votes are to be cast, I’m reflecting upon the present state of the two campaigns. Barack Obama leads in almost every poll while ripples of division grow within the Republican party.
“We know the battle ahead will be long. But always remember that nothing can stand in the way of millions of voices calling for change.” These were Obama’s words after his campaign marginally lost the New Hampshire primary to Senator Hillary Clinton.
It’s no secret that many of these “voices” were to be found on a new frontier of global politics: the Internet. When the Democratic debates were broadcast on YouTube for the first time in July, the Internet signalled that it was ready to play a significant role in the electoral process.
Whereas the United States is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, the demographics of the online world are vastly different. The Obama campaign has (so far) trumped its rival on all the major Internet battlefields. The Internet has not only helped Barack Obama raise record-breaking funds, it has also helped him mobilize support and fight republican “smears”.
The YouTube electorate
On YouTube, Obama’s channel has released more than 1,710 videos which are now beamed immediately to over 108,682 subscribers. The campaign has received nearly 18 million channel views and their videos have been watched and promoted by many more.
In comparison, McCain’s channel has posted only 315 videos with less than 30,000 subscribers and 2 million channel views. In the time it took McCain’s subscribers to grow from 27,332 to 27,335, Obama’s number had jumped from 108,662 to 108,682.
Videos posted by users also show a significant pro-Obama trend. While McCain’s and Palin’s “gaffes” are closely scrutinized by the YouTube Electorate, Obama’s speeches and advertisements are often glorified.
A YouTube search for “Obama speech” pulls up videos which are mostly pro-Obama. Type in “McCain speech” and you wont fail to notice that more than half the results do not reflect favorably upon John McCain.
Digg, Facebook, Twitter and Myspace
Obama has also had a clean sweep on Digg.com, a social network that lets users submit and ‘Digg’ their favorite stories in order to determine their importance and popularity. With 25,594 fans (compared to McCain’s 3,545), the Obama campaign has had a significant influence over the stories that made headlines on Digg. The campaign was more pro-active, making 99 submissions in contrast to the 14 made by their Republican counterparts.
On Twitter, the Obama Campaign has been continuously updating 108,268 ‘followers’, posting a total of 248 updates. In contrast, John McCain’s Campaign has managed to gain only 4,289 followers and post 25 updates. On Facebook, Barack has 2.3 million supporters compared with McCains 600,000. Finally, Obama has also outplayed McCain on MySpace, gaining nearly four times as many supporters (794,720 to 205,070).
International opinion matters
Most of these networks operate on principles of democracy under which the videos, news or blogs rated highest make it to the front-pages. Obama’s army of Digg fans and YouTube subscribers ensure that his posts are well promoted and thus more readily available to undecided audiences.
Barack Obama seems to be favored over his opponent by people in “liberal” Europe and other parts of the world. Many of them have supported the Democratic campaign on these social networks. I believe that the campaign’s success can be attributed mainly to their success with engaging young voters on the Internet.