Pilot Light

Inferno is a PR consultancy. This is not. This is Inferno’s blog.

Roving for voters on Ebay

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A keen student of business
Karl Rove (Dubya’s election strategy wunderkind) has been stirring it up with some interesting comments about the impact of the Internet and technology in general on people’s political leanings. No, I hadn’t thought about it that way either. In an interview with The New Yorker Rove made the point that the Internet was unleashing a new wave of entrepreneurially-minded people whose natural home would be on the centre-right.

“Rove thinks that more voters now are being influenced by technology and religion. “There are two or three societal trends that are driving us in an increasingly deep center-right posture,” he said. “One of them is the power of the computer chip. Do you know how many people’s principal source of income is eBay? Seven hundred thousand.” He went on, “So the power of the computer has made it possible for people to gain greater control over their lives. It’s given people a greater chance to run their own business, become a sole proprietor or an entrepreneur. As a result, it has made us more market-oriented, and that equals making you more center-right in your politics.”

Now, as a seemingly deeply Machiavellian character, it’s not beyond Rove to be flying a kite here rather than making a serious point – and Charles Cooper on CNET certainly thinks there are holes in the argument. I would certainly argue that one’s political stance is much more based on a mosaic of issues and experiences, rather than such a single issue. And how many of these people were on the centre-right anyway? And is this more a reflection on the specifics of US society than a global trend? However, Mr Rove has managed to get George Bush elected twice – quite a feat – so perhaps he does know what he is talking about.

So, what if it is true? Should we, in the PR world, be thinking of this new group of extremely internet-aware consumers as being unified through their political stance even if they are not unified in any other way (other than their Internet usage). Would it even be useful to do so? I’m not sure that politically-infused or politically-aware messaging is such a smart idea for brands that are nothing to do with politics. Its a bit like that old-fashioned advice not to discuss religion or politics at the dinner table. You are likely to offend as many people as you attract. But from the perspective of political parties it may make more sense.

In the UK, both main political parties have been experimenting with their Internet presence and arguably David Cameron’s Conservatives have made most progress via the Web Cameron site. But they are both still in “send” mode – using the Internet as a new delivery mechanism for carefully crafted messages – rather than “receive” mode where they can engage in conversations with their electorate.

I wonder though, maybe with our industry’s limitless love for surveys, the next one should measure the political affiliations of Ebay super-users?



Written by pilotlight

14/06/2007 at 12:39 pm

Posted in PR, Web 2.0

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