If you're not watching too much television these days, chances are you're one of those tech-savvy people with a smart phone, a laptop that can tap into WiFi from anywhere, or have made the leap to the iPad. Political candidates are aware of the shift and that they're increasingly being measured by new electronic yardsticks. Take, for instance, Google Trends, which tracks and graphs the subjects being searched via Google. The New York Times’ Five-Thirty-Eight politics blog points out that when it comes to possible Republican Party candidates for president in the 2012 election, Sarah Palin's search traffic is roughly 16 times that of Mitt Romney's and 38 times that of Mike Huckabee's. Her name is searched about 30 percent more often by Google users in the United States than President Barack Obama's. And with so many people following politics online, candidates are increasingly turning to cyberspace to get their political messages out.
Tyler Chafee, a political consultant, predicts that online advertising will only grow. "We're looking for that younger market, the people who aren't thinking about politics," he tells The Denver Post. "And how, in a statewide race, do you get attention if you don't have a million [dollars] for TV? It's more difficult." Moreover, the ads can be extremely well targeted—to users in specific ZIP codes and of certain ages.
And then there's the free electronic media that candidates can turn to, such as Facebook and Twitter, to reach their faithful and perhaps generate a headline or two. When it comes down to it, Republicans tend to be better tweeters, according to a new Hewlett-Packard study on the recent election (via MediaBistro). Seventy of the top 100 "most influential members of Congress on Twitter were Republican."