Facebook Aims to Rock the Vote in the U.K.
On Saturday, visitors to the popular social networking site in the U.K. will be asked whether they're registered voters; those who answer no will soon find themselves at the Electoral Commission's Web site being encouraged to register to vote. Polls in Great Britain are predicting the general election scheduled for May 6 to be the closest there in 20 years, according to Reuters.
The effort by election officials is a matter of trying to catch salmon in the rivers where they run. Election turnout in Great Britain dropped to 61.4% in 2005, but the decline was steepest among 18- to 24-year-olds, who had a 37% turnout, the Reuters article noted.
It makes sense that U.K. election officials would turn to Facebook, given its popularity with youth, as well as the middle-aged and, to a lesser degree, seniors. They're apparently shying away from MySpace, which tends to be more heavily used by minors, who are ineligible to vote.
The wide reach of Facebook is not lost on politicians, who have flocked to the site to post profiles and communicate with constituents, donors and potential volunteers. Facebook has also been actively embedding itself into the U.S. political scene, adding politicians' profiles to its site during the 2006 mid-term election campaigns. And when the 2008 elections drew near, it teamed up with ABC News to co-sponsor the televised debates before the New Hampshire primary.
While politicians and the U.K. Electoral Commission are turning to Facebook, other technologies have been heavily used as well from Twitter to YouTube videos to Second Life, where candidates have created virtual campaign headquarters.
All this use of technology to get exposure among a certain demographic is fine and good, but in the end, the candidates themselves have to carry the day. Just ask San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, whose recent run for the California governor's seat never gained much traction, despite his use of Twitter to announce his candidacy and a heavy reliance on Facebook posts and YouTube in his campaign. Newsom has since abandoned his quest for the governor's mansion; instead, he's launched a new campaign for lieutenant governor.