Friday, September 6, 2019

The Internet And The Democratic Process Essay Example for Free

The Internet And The Democratic Process Essay The Internet has literally revolutionized the way we live, radically changing the way we receive and disseminate information. It has had dramatic effects on business, education, and society in general, but the focus of this paper will be on how the Internet has affected the democratic process of election. In recent years, the way campaigns have been run by candidates has changed dramatically, as they have had to shift a large percentage of their resources and attention to the Internet and its many venues for reaching potential voters. Beyond campaigning, however, the Internet has also affected the way people vote. Just as how the Internet helps consumers decide on product choice, it has also aided political aspirants to market their credentials, and at the same time, help the voters know more about the candidates. During the 1994 mid-term elections, thousands of voters preferred the electronic mail as the vehicle for asking questions from candidates than television appearances which were often dependent on sound bites, and did not comprehensively present the positions of the candidates on important issues. Special interest groups have also joined the campaign by providing online information about candidates such as the League of Women Voters and the California Online Voter Guide (Tapscott, 1999). In 2000, the role of the Internet in politics was elevated to a higher and more serious level when it was used in the democratic presidential primary in Arizona. During this primary, almost half of the voters cast their votes through the Internet (Weare, 2002). They were the first state in our country (and this was 8 years ago now) to implement what is called â€Å"e-voting,† which was intended to simplify the voting process, making it easier for votes to be cast from anywhere where there is an Internet connection. The implications are staggering, as e-voting would result in many votes being cast that previously would not have been, simply because so many people did not take the time to actually make their way to the polls. Apart from increasing participation in the most important democratic process, which is the elections, the Internet may also decrease the cost of political transaction not only on the part of the voters but also on the part of the politicians. Specifically, election campaign through the Internet can prove to be less costly in a state-wide or nation-wide campaign, and even more effective in terms of getting the politician’s message across to the voting public since discussions are open and there are no constraints in providing campaign information through e-mails. True enough, the Internet also allows for more simplified communication between the people and their representatives. According to the Center for Governmental Studies, an organization that researches ways to improve government, â€Å"the Internet can revitalize American democracy by encouraging two-way communications: from candidate to candidate, from voter to candidate, and from voter to voter† (Shane, 2004).   It is also interesting to note that Internet can also be used in generating campaign funds. For instance, Howard Dean became a frontrunner during the 2004 Democratic primaries due to the millions he was able to raise through an e-mail campaign (Wheeler, 2004). Equally important in a meaningful democracy is the freedom of the people to articulate their interests and opinions, that is made possible by the social forums on the Internet that provide places for political discussions and debates. There are literally millions of sites, discussion boards, and forums that are mediated by the people themselves for the purpose of disseminating information and contributing to the discussion of political issues (Saco, 2002). Because there is no guidance or control, like there is with the media, we see a wider range of opinions being expressed. Yes, there is more ignorance, but there is also more opportunity to be heard, and there is less fear that an underlying bias is behind the source of every message. Essentially, the Internet has become a place of extremely open communication where millions of people are now going to get their information about politics and the election process. This â€Å"openness† has become the new driving force behind our democracy, and today’s presidential hopefuls have certainly taken notice of this, using the Internet to their advantage as often as they can. In a YouGov America Survey of 3,500 internet users a week before the 2004 presidential elections, it was noted that â€Å"about 12% of Americans who had internet access sent an e-mail on the elections, voters under the age of 24 trusted online media than the television, and even senior voters actively visited political websites† or weblogs by politicians (Wheeler, 2004). Interestingly, there are many who are more conservative and skeptical about the impact of the Internet on democratic processess. For example, there is supposedly a cultural divide between the people who use the Internet and those who do not, as some can afford it and some cannot. Essentially, it is argued that there is an Internet class, and a non-Internet class of U.S. citizens – so what happens on the Internet is not a true representation of the country’s collective opinions and people (Shane, 2004). However in an advanced economy wherein the Internet becomes a public good, this argument may no longer be tenable. There is also a question about the authenticity of the communication process because we can never be sure if we are dealing with genuine people or with those who are only taking advantage of the anonymity in the Internet. Users should also be cautious about the authenticity of the information that is also found in the Internet, because, being too â€Å"open†, it had also been used to propagate lies, unhealthy propaganda and misinformation. Poll surveys have also become an instant and daily occurrence in the internet which was supposed to â€Å"represent† opinions on certain issues, even though there are not enough checks on the authenticity of the voter. Still, these polls are being used to shape public opinion. Though it is true that the Internet can be easily be subjected to abuse, what is important is that through this media, more political preferences are being articulated by the people and the people have access to the political information that they need it is only up to their political wisdom how to make this technology more beneficial to them. References Saco, D. (2002). Cybering Democracy: Public Space and the Internet. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Shane, P. M. (Ed.). (2004). Democracy Online: The Prospects for Political Renewal through the Internet. New York: Routledge. Tapscott, Don. (1999). The Digital Economy: Promise and Peril in the Age of Networked Intelligence. The Industrial Age Democracy by the Alliance for Converging Technologies. Accessed at on 03/03/2008. Weare, C. (2002). The Internet and Democracy: The Causal Links between Technology and Politics. International Journal of Public Administration, 25(5), 659+. Wheeler, Bryan. (2004, August 12). The Internet and Elections. BBC News Online. Accessed at on 03/03/2008.

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