New media and the US elections 3

New media revolutionised US Presidential elections through fund raising, fact checking and crowd sourcing, according to Tom Shaller ( @schaller67 ).

Social media offered fast, if not always accurate, coverage.

Schaller , Professor of political science at the University of Maryland, was speaking at a master class on media and US politics at the UTS Graduate School of Journalism. Tom Schaller is a regular political columnist for the Baltimore Sun and is the author of a number of books on politics. His visit to Australia was sponsored by the US government.

  • Smart phones were deployed to link like minded people to form neighbourhood political action networks. Partisan apps were developed and distributed to aid the process. In a non compulsory voting system, apps were even used to help voters enroll. Meanwhile, Party supporters attending mass rallies were given the numbers of uncommitted voters and asked to call them while waiting for the rally speakers to appear.
  • Online fact checking was helping to make everyone honest. In the US,, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, aimed “to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics”. Major political speeches were subjected to detailed analysis and proven falsehoods were published. “You can’t trust the candidates to tell the truth and the media to report it”, Shaller said. “The US mainstream media was hesitant to use the word ‘lie’ “, he said. But bloggers were less restrained.
  • Crowd funding had freed candidates who used it from the tiring and expensive round of events staged for potential contributors. The Barack Obama team’s clever use of internet sourced funding had given him a decisive advantage over Hillary Clinton when they were contesting the Democratic Party nomination. “While Hillary toured the country raising money, Obama raised US$60 million in a month on the internet.”

Tom Shaller

Shaller said that political campaigners had a “symbiotic” relationship with old and new media. They operated across all media platforms:

1. Long form: Books, platforms, voter guides, economic plans.
2. Public relations: Daily messaging, conference calls, talking points, web/viral video.
3. Online, phone, direct mail fundraising.
4. Grassroots/fieldwork using phone, social networking, internet, texting.
5. Paid TV/Radio/web/direct mail/phone.
Professor Shaller said that innovative use of technology in campaigning contrasted with the electoral college system of voting which dated back to the eighteenth century. The system would be fairer and more efficient if the US adopted direct voting in Presidential elections, an independent Electoral Commission (like Australia) and limits on campaign spending, he said.


  1. Pingback: New media and the US elections | Knighta1949′s Blog

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