Backgrounder: The Internet and Politics--No Revolution, Yet

Source Organization: Pew Research Center


11/06/2006 - When computers and the internet first asserted themselves in Americans' cultural imagination in the early 1990s, some foresaw a golden era of politics. As citizens gained more access to information and as their voices could more easily be projected into political discourse via bulletin boards, Web sites and listservs, candidates would have more reason to communicate directly with voters. Campaigns would become cheaper and more honest, while the power of lobbyists, political action committees, consultants and other middlemen would fade. 

Recently, as we've gained more experience with our new technological toys, a less optimistic take has emerged: Forget the golden era; through partisan blogs, political web sites and customized news, the internet only hardens our views, polarizes our politics and contributes to the nation's red and blue divides.

So, is the internet the lever for direct democracy? Or is it a wedge for political polarization? Either conclusion may prove too simple. To understand how technology might reshape politics in the years ahead, consider what we've learned from the initial decade of online campaigning, and the degree to which both our fears and hopes have been realized. Let's consider the record on various assertions about its impact:

Read the full report The Internet and Politics: No Revolution, Yet on the Pew Research Center Web site.

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