DDTI: The Influentials

Jonas Seiger, Institute for Politics, Democracy, and the Internet at GWU is presenting some interesting statistics on the nature of people accessing political web sites. The survey was done using pop-ups and telephone surveys. The people had to have visited a political web site and done two of a large list of other activities that would indicate political activity. About 7% of the US qualifies as an "online political citizen" (OPC).

In general they are male (62%), well-educated (59% college degrees), have good incomes (42% over $75,000), and 36% are between 18 and 30. Mic of old and new--44% are new. 49% are Democrats, while only 29$ are Republicans. This is due to the opportunities Democrats have had in this election cycle. 46% of OPC make campaign contributions, while only 10% of the general population does.

Keller and Berry say that 10% of Americans influence what the other 90% think, through their networks. They are activists and trendsetters. Using some qualifiers to find out who were influentials, the study found that 70% of OPC were influentials compared to 10% of the general population and 13% of the online community as a whole. This means that reaching OPCs has great leverage because the exert a disproportionate amount of influence on their friends and family.

59% of Iowans used the Internet to get information about the candidates. Dean did better among top users, but Kerry beat Dean in people who sometimes used the Internet to find out about candidates.

The lesson: message matters. Dean failed to close the deal. Just as Dean's success cascaded through the network he created, so did his failures. Polls show that Dean got people energized and they came out to vote, but voted for Kerry.

Scott Hefferman, CEO of MeetUp.com, shows some pictures from MeetUp's around the country, including the Heritage Foundation, which is the fastest growing MeetUp application lately. Hefferman was influenced by Putman's " Bowling Alone." His girlfriend drug him to a Lord of the Rings meeting that was poorly organized and he thought that the world needed a site to allow people to meet up. The big bet was that if you give people a tool to find each other, they'll self-organize and the answer, apparently, is yes.

MeetUp is alike Hallmark, they create holidays. MeetUp let's people create "Mini Cooper day" or "pug day." Politics is the same thing. Over 50% of people going to political meet-ups have never been to a political meeting before. People go to meet-ups to learn. They go because their co-workers, or neighbors take them. Being at a meet-up doesn't imply strong support. People go to meet-ups who don't know that it was organized on the Internet. The Internet is enabling non-connected people to meet as well.

1800s to 1950's was the era of joiners and organizers. 1950 to 2004 was the era of broadcast. No need for members, chapters, organizations, or meetings. 2004 shows the trend to grassroots meetings again. He quote De Tocqueville's "Democracy in America" on the liberty of associate and the power of meeting.