The Internet and Political Campaigning: engagement or cynicism?

At the Hansard Society’s seminar on the internet and political participation (Portcullis House, 18th April 2007), the panel and audience discussed the impact of online campaigning. A summary is available on the Hansard Society website. Alternatively you can view the slides here: Professor John Curtice and Professor Rachel Gibson.

Whether in the case of electoral campaigning or the parliamentary process between elections several important challenges were raised, five of which we raise here:

1. Online campaigning strategies that reflect traditional campaigns engage those already interested in politics. How can politicians harness technology to connect with the disengaged?

2. Those who are cynical about politics can be made more so by negative online campaign strategies. How can politicians develop innovative approaches that build trust?

3. Young people are least connected to parliamentary processes. How can Parliament, its committees and individual MPs and Peers develop meaningful connections using new technologies?

4. Derek Wyatt MP showed various international examples to highlight election campaigns that reach out beyond party agendas, and, in some cases, geographical boundaries. How might political institutions benefit from technology that dissolves traditional political territories?

5. Steve Webb MP described how different sites attract specific demographic and interest groups. Are there technologies or techniques which can help MPs to manage this disaggregated engagement activity?

These are exactly the sorts of challenges we posed to the Incubator Group and we look forward to seeing how they go about tackling them. But we are also very interested in other people using this space to unpick these challenges and throw around some ideas.

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