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The impact of open government on election 2010

Open government, using social media, open data, and other solutions, has been a focus area for many of us for some time. While this evolution (no, not a revolution) in government is slow, as change often is, it is impacting the way government runs and politicians campaign. You do, after all, remember what happened in the mayoral race in Calgary this year with Naheed Nenshi’s amazing come from behind victory, a victory that began at the grassroot level using the cheapest of tools possible (Twitter,Facebook,Blogs)?

Do you remember when Lincoln Chafee, a long shot independent gubernatorial candidate in Rhode Island, issued his press release on October 11th, a press release focused on his support for Open Government? While Chaffee was not leading in the polls at the time he did win the race for Governor yesterday.

What about Deval Patrick in Massachusetts? Massachusetts is considered one of the leading voices of Open Government and has consistently demonstrated the power of open data and social media. The use of social media during the campaign, in combination with other channels (including in person shaking hands and kissing babies) played a role in his re-election.

Social applications, like Foursquare and Facebook, did their part to generate election buzz as well. The Foursquare Election page shows 50,416 check-ins (or people claiming to vote) and Facebook reports more than 12 million people clicked the I Voted button. What is interesting is that:

  • According to Facebook “The Facebook political team’s initial snapshot of 98 House races shows that 74% of candidates with the most Facebook fans won their contests. In the Senate, our initial snapshot of 19 races shows that 81% of candidates with the most Facebook fans won their contests”. Yes, those candidates that have taken the time to build out a social media presence are doing better than those that did not.
  • According to the official Facebook statistics page there are more than 500 million registered users and only about 30% of them live in the United States (150 million people). This means that 8% of US Facebook users participated with the social media campaign.
  • According to GigaOM Foursquare has more than 4 million users. I have not found reliable data for the percentage of Foursquare users in the United States but I will estimate, on the very low-end, that only 50% of their users are in the US (2 million) showing that only 2.5% of US-based Foursquare users used the I Voted application.
  • Facebook, not only in terms of raw numbers but also in terms of percentages of the user population, saw much more election related activity and probably had a much larger impact as well.
  • According to the Washington Post voter turnout was expected to reach 42% which, if you read my march to 40% post yesterday, hasn’t happened in a very long time for a mid-term election. Perhaps the impact of social media is being seen.

It is clear to me that politicians, both those running for office and those currently in office, must continue to raise the bar in terms of their understanding and use of social media as well as of open government. Candidates that invest in these areas will continue to win elections by wider and wider margins and this, hopefully, means that the evolution to more open government continues.


Originally posted on Government in Action.

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