Presidential Candidates Hit the Internet Trail

Presidential candidates who include Internet, wireless and other forms of new media as a key part of their election campaign are more likely to attract young voters than candidates who do not, according to a new survey that was conducted largely online and via text messaging.

Given this context, Barack Obama was favored by 62% and John McCain 33% by future voters who responded to “UR Votes Count,” a survey conducted by the consumer research department at investment firm General Growth Properties, Chicago. More than 50,000 teens ages 13-17 participated in the survey at a mall location, online and/or through text message. Sobe, Sprint and Discover Card were among the companies sponsoring the Web site,

According to the survey, the economy and the environment were the most pressing issues for those who responded. Almost 90% of those who responded believe the current economy is affecting their daily life as a teenager and 44% think it will take more than two years for the economy to improve. Regarding the environment, 63% said they would base their vote in part on a candidate’s stance on the “green” issues, while 59% felt the government should take stronger action and pass laws directing citizens to become more “green.”

In a separate but related study, the number of 18-to-29-year-olds who follow coverage of the election “very closely” online in 2008 is double that of 2004, according to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, Washington. Among the findings, 42% of people under 30 “regularly learn about the campaign from the Internet” versus 20% in 2004; and 37% have gotten campaign information from social networking sites.

Both candidates have utilized Facebook, MySpace, Twitter or other social networking sites, and both have dedicated Web sites to attract and register voters. However, Obama appears to have invested the most in new media electioneering. Videogame company Electronic Arts, for example, said that Obama has bought ad space on its Burnout: Paradise for Xbox Live. “The Obama campaign has paid for in-game advertising in Burnout,” Holly Rockwood, EA’s director of corporate communications, told gaming Web site “Like most television, radio and print outlets, we accept advertising from credible political candidates. Like political spots on the television networks, these ads do not reflect the political policies of EA or the opinions of its development teams.”

Videogame players said they also have seen Obama ads in such EA games as Nascar 09, NHL 09, NBA Live 08, Need For Speed: Carbon, Need For Speed: ProStreet, NFL Tour and Skate.

“It’s so important people vote. With all of the attention and excitement surrounding the upcoming presidential election, we knew this would be a great time to engage and educate teens on the political process,” Wally Brewster, svp-marketing and communications at General Growth Properties, said in a statement. “It’s essential teens know their vote counts and they are empowered to shape the world as they think it should be.”