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Even as early as the 2000 US Presidential elections, scholars have debated the role that new media has played in influencing voter participation. These discussions have since intensified, and, thanks to the proliferation of internet access nation-wide, the impact of different types of media in the 2008 elections became a central issue. Especially at the national level, the Even as early as the 2000 US Presidential elections, scholars have debated the role that new media has played in influencing voter participation. These discussions have since intensified, and, thanks to the proliferation of internet access nation-wide, the impact of different types of media in the 2008 elections became a central issue. Especially at the national level, the media has referred to Barack Obama’s historic electoral victory as the “Facebook election,” the “Twitter election,” and even the “new media election.” But, does the reality match the rhetoric? This paper examines the role of new media in the 2008 Presidential election, asking the question of whether the consumption of both new media and old media in the 2008 Presidential election have a significant effect on a person's likelihood to engage in the political process by voting, or whether disparities exist by type of media. Through a quantitative analysis, this study finds that contrary to the popular rhetoric, old media consumption, rather than new media consumption, still remains dominant in explaining voting behavior. The paper examines the hypothesis that the consumption of both new media and old media in the 2008 Presidential election had a significant effect on a person's likelihood to engage in the political process by voting. The alternative hypothesis, then, is that differing consumption patterns of new media relative to old is associated with a disparate likelihood of voting. The data come from the “2008 Post-Election Voter Engagement” survey conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Data analysis is then performed using a probit regression using whether or not one voted as the dependent variable, and media consumption patterns and actions as the independent variables -- after controlling for demographic data. This paper examines the explanatory power of different media to take a non-voter and convert them to a voter. It does not, however, address the ability of media sources to encourage a specific voting behavior -- i.e. voting for a specific candidate rather than another. Its focus is on explaining the role of various media in getting a person to the ballot box who, in the absence of a specific pattern of media consumption, would not do so. Though the popular narrative states that new media is fundamentally changing the way in which candidates and citizens engage in the political process relative to old media, this paper will provide the quantitative analysis through which such rhetoric can be judged. The implications for this study are pivotal in two areas: political strategy and campaign finance reform. Politically, this study will inform whether or not future campaigns would be wise to eschew much of their focus on old-media in favor of concentrating on voter engagement through new media sources such as Facebook and Twitter. Secondly, following the United States Supreme Court’s recent decision rejecting corporate spending limits in elections, the issue of campaign finance reform has once again reached the national consciousness. The consequences for whether or not new media holds strong explanatory power in voter engagement are crucial for the future of campaign financing. If the results show that, in fact, relatively inexpensive new media is much more salient than costly old media in engaging voters, this would be a strong argument that campaign finance laws are not necessary moving forward as candidates would be able to compete in elections more fairly as a result of a decrease in media budgets. However, if the data prove that new media is less salient than the rhetoric surrounding it suggests and that expensive old media is still dominant, this would provide a strong argument in favor of the need for campaign spending limits to reduce the financial barriers of entry in campaigns, encourage competition and allow a marketplace of ideas to flourish. Through a quantitative analysis based on data provided by the Pew Center’s Internet and American Life project, this study finds that contrary to the popular rhetoric, old media consumption still remains dominant in explaining voting behavior. This study characterizes new media as that which is two-way in communication and has low barriers to entry and virtually zero marginal cost of participating -- as contrasted with old media which remains cost-prohibitively expensive.


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Even as early as the 2000 US Presidential elections, scholars have debated the role that new media has played in influencing voter participation. These discussions have since intensified, and, thanks to the proliferation of internet access nation-wide, the impact of different types of media in the 2008 elections became a central issue. Especially at the national level, the Even as early as the 2000 US Presidential elections, scholars have debated the role that new media has played in influencing voter participation. These discussions have since intensified, and, thanks to the proliferation of internet access nation-wide, the impact of different types of media in the 2008 elections became a central issue. Especially at the national level, the media has referred to Barack Obama’s historic electoral victory as the “Facebook election,” the “Twitter election,” and even the “new media election.” But, does the reality match the rhetoric? This paper examines the role of new media in the 2008 Presidential election, asking the question of whether the consumption of both new media and old media in the 2008 Presidential election have a significant effect on a person's likelihood to engage in the political process by voting, or whether disparities exist by type of media. Through a quantitative analysis, this study finds that contrary to the popular rhetoric, old media consumption, rather than new media consumption, still remains dominant in explaining voting behavior. The paper examines the hypothesis that the consumption of both new media and old media in the 2008 Presidential election had a significant effect on a person's likelihood to engage in the political process by voting. The alternative hypothesis, then, is that differing consumption patterns of new media relative to old is associated with a disparate likelihood of voting. The data come from the “2008 Post-Election Voter Engagement” survey conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Data analysis is then performed using a probit regression using whether or not one voted as the dependent variable, and media consumption patterns and actions as the independent variables -- after controlling for demographic data. This paper examines the explanatory power of different media to take a non-voter and convert them to a voter. It does not, however, address the ability of media sources to encourage a specific voting behavior -- i.e. voting for a specific candidate rather than another. Its focus is on explaining the role of various media in getting a person to the ballot box who, in the absence of a specific pattern of media consumption, would not do so. Though the popular narrative states that new media is fundamentally changing the way in which candidates and citizens engage in the political process relative to old media, this paper will provide the quantitative analysis through which such rhetoric can be judged. The implications for this study are pivotal in two areas: political strategy and campaign finance reform. Politically, this study will inform whether or not future campaigns would be wise to eschew much of their focus on old-media in favor of concentrating on voter engagement through new media sources such as Facebook and Twitter. Secondly, following the United States Supreme Court’s recent decision rejecting corporate spending limits in elections, the issue of campaign finance reform has once again reached the national consciousness. The consequences for whether or not new media holds strong explanatory power in voter engagement are crucial for the future of campaign financing. If the results show that, in fact, relatively inexpensive new media is much more salient than costly old media in engaging voters, this would be a strong argument that campaign finance laws are not necessary moving forward as candidates would be able to compete in elections more fairly as a result of a decrease in media budgets. However, if the data prove that new media is less salient than the rhetoric surrounding it suggests and that expensive old media is still dominant, this would provide a strong argument in favor of the need for campaign spending limits to reduce the financial barriers of entry in campaigns, encourage competition and allow a marketplace of ideas to flourish. Through a quantitative analysis based on data provided by the Pew Center’s Internet and American Life project, this study finds that contrary to the popular rhetoric, old media consumption still remains dominant in explaining voting behavior. This study characterizes new media as that which is two-way in communication and has low barriers to entry and virtually zero marginal cost of participating -- as contrasted with old media which remains cost-prohibitively expensive.

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