If either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama becomes the next president of the United States (and trends indicate that these Democrats are way ahead of their Republican rivals), the winner at the hustings will have to add one more name to their “Thank you” list — YouTube.
Every presidential candidate is running a YouTube campaign by putting up their exclusive video sub-sites on www.youtube.com/youchoose , but it is no wonder that the ones with the strongest campaigns of them all — Clinton and Obama — are also frontrunners for the top post. Admittedly, it is not YouTube alone that will shape voters in the lead-in primaries to the party nomination conventions and then the election itself in November, but recent surveys suggest that the Internet and sites such as YouTube played a huge role in swinging votes.
On January 11, the Washington-based Pew Research Center reported that a 24 per cent of all Americans now regularly depend on the Internet to get their campaign news, and sites such as YouTube heavily influence their final decision on who to vote for, especially the undecided voters. In 2000, that figure was just 9 per cent.
It was also the first campaign in history to run online presidential debates. CNN partnered with YouTube late in 2007 to get candidates to respond to questions posted by YouTube regulars. Hosted by celebrity host Anderson Cooper, the CNN-YouTube Debates, as they are now called, have been a runaway success. Some of the most relevant and difficult questions posed in the campaign have been on YouTube, and with CNN giving it primetime importance, YouTube’s credibility touched an all-time high, even with the sceptics.
The strongest contenders in this year’s campaign — Democrats Obama, Clinton and John Edwards; and Republicans John McCain, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney — all have strategically planned video campaigns, online blogs, chat sessions, etc. In fact, Obama — who could become the first black president of the US — launched his presidential bid on YouTube.