YouTube influence on elections debatable

24 Jul 2007

posed in the form of a YouTube video

Click the links for the 39 videos that made the cut, the other 2,950 that didn't, transcript, and alleged results.

The debate (put together by both CNN and YouTube) is the latest episode in the ongoing saga of how Web 2.0 is allegedly reshaping political elections - you know, like how you can rate Hillary Clinton's or Rudy Giuliani's campaigns by how many MySpace friends they have and stuff.

For my money, the YouTube debates were the same old thing with a high-tech gimmick: people asking the same basic questions Anderson Cooper probably would have asked, and candidates giving the same answers they always give (or don't give, if you see what I'm saying). People could have sent in their questions by post or email and it would have been effectively the same thing - albeit without the benefit of voters dressed as vikings or doing voiceovers for pet chihuahuas with stereotypical Mexican accents. I wish all 39 questions had been like those instead of mostly straightforward talking heads with questions - it would have been far more entertaining and yet just as meaningful.

So did YouTube add anything apart from light entertainment‾ Not really, except maybe for the woman with breast cancer asking about healthcare coverage, which added some much-needed gravitas to the question but probably didn't generate any different responses from the candidates.

If YouTube makes any difference at all in the way elections work (providing YouTube isn't banned in your country or school that day), it's more likely to be from unauthorized user-generated campaign videos that either promote a candidate or denounce one (or both). It'll be interesting to see the research in five years' time that gives an indication of how videos like those Hillary Clinton/Barack Obama mash-ups of the Apple Computer "1984" TV commercial actually impacted the respective campaigns. Maybe one day UGC guerilla campaigns will be more influential than official TV spots.

Or maybe it really will be something where whoever has the most MySpace friends wins. In which case the next US president will be Tila Tequila. [NESFW in some countries*]

Oh, like that'd be worse.

FYI: The Republicans get their chance to debate YouTubers September 17.

*NESFW = not entirely safe for work

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