Barack Obama’s email list: it was not so big after all

The 2010 general election campaign is already, in one respect, much like the previous two: it has plenty of pundits wondering if it will be the first internet general election.

The reality is rather more subtle than the question implies. If you look at internal organisation and communications, the internet has long since become crucial to parties. Even back in 2001 turning off the internet would have caused campaigns to stagger near collapse.

At the local level, the often unsung tool of email has also been putting in years of important service in organising campaigns, mobilising helpers and winning votes. It’s something politicians across the political spectrum are rather better at than even they themselves often give credit for.

After all, Obama’s email campaign may have caught the headlines, but for many MPs and councillors their email lists are a larger proportion of their voting base than Obama’s was.

For the national media air war during the election, the internet – and in particular that tool now used by so many journalists, Twitter – will make this election look very different from previous ones.

That mix of continuity and change means there’s no simple one answer to the question of whether 2010 will be the first internet general election – which may explain why my fuller answer is 4,373 words long, though livened up with five pictures and one film.

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