The Technological Development of Candidate Websites: How and Why Candidates Use Web Innovations (WP-07-09)


James N. Druckman, Martin Kifer, and Michael Parkin

The Internet offers political candidates a new way to campaign.  Part of the Internet's novelty comes from technological options not available in most other media. Candidates, however, must weigh various benefits and costs in using a given technological innovation.  For example, technology that allows for increased interactivity between users may lead to a more stimulating website but it also has the potential to distract users from the campaign's central message.  In this paper, we use data from 444 congressional campaign websites, over two elections, to examine how candidates approach Web technology.  We also investigate the factors that lead candidates to either utilize or avoid particular technological features.  We show that technological adoption is determined by both practical and strategic political considerations.  Of particular interest is that the competitiveness of a candidate's race leads the candidate to use more sophisticated presentation technologies but less advanced interactive innovations, since these latter options interfere with the candidate's message.

James N. Druckman, Associate Professor of Political Science, Northwestern University
Martin Kifer, Graduate School, University of Minnesota
Michael Parkin, Assistant Professor of Politics, Oberlin College

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