Do Online Activists React Offline?

Michael Connery wrote a thought piece about the electronic social behavior of the millenial generation, those who are under 30 years old. They made MySpace popular, are huge text message users, and are responsible for much of the growth of Twitter, which is kind of like micro-blogging as the mood hits. The question in my mind is whether this spontaneous connected activity will reproduce itself in offline activity, especially as it relates to political activity.

Connery quotes Colin Delaney of ePolitics, who pointed to a lecture by Vint Cerf, the internet pioneer.  Cerf wondered if online style will change as people age.  Will they move from instant messaging to a more asynchronous mode when life and physical distance gets in the way.

IM’ing is great when you’re gossipping with classmates, but email may be better when you’re catching up with that friend across the country who suddenly has three kids under the age of five. … one of email’s strengths is that it IS asynchronous — that it ISN’T necessarily immediate, since you can read that email instantly or a week later.

To put the realization into perspective, Connery referenced a 2006 Blog Ads survey, which says that only  15% of political blog readers are Millenials.  He postulates that “political blog readership among Millenials should increase as political activism among Millennials increases.”  In the long-run, online activists should move from instant messaging to blogging and email, which is significant in the way a politician runs their campaign.

Remember that Obama promised to annouce his VP choice by instant message, but McCain announced in the news media and blogosphere.  That would suggest that Obama thinks his supporters are younger, and McCain assumes his are a little older.

Which brings me finally to the point of this missive.  Do spontaneous people plan to vote, or do they vote if time and circumstances are conducive?  Are asynchronous people more likely to vote than synchronous people, in that they are more likely to work communication around activity schedules? And are unwired people – those older still – even more likely to take offline action than connected supporters.

(It would be worth a look to see the age demographic of online versus mailed-in donations – excluding paid political fundraising events.  Do average people tend away from online donations and toward hardcopy checks as they age?)

In short, although there is a lot of buzz on the internet of this candidate or that one, what are the demographics of the one doing the communicating, and does their age and style of communication predict the eventual outcome of who shows up to the polls?


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