Slate and the Industry Standard join forces to examine the effect of the Internet on Campaign 2000.
However shaky its methodology, online polling is already a reality. Online voting, too, is being debated in a variety of communities.
Now, one Internet company has announced that it will hold an online primary--among a group of voters bigger than the population of California and New York combined: women.
During the week of March 1, 2000, a new Web site called "Majority 2000: Women Count" plans to hold a nationwide primary, designed to gauge the way women will vote in the Super Tuesday primary March 14. Calling itself a "political women's portal for presidential politics," the site is a joint project between Good Housekeeping and Women.com, the New York-based community site. (They became corporate siblings when Women.com merged with Hearst, Good Housekeeping's publisher, in January of this year.) The virtual primary will be the culmination of several months of online surveys designed both to provide information about which political issues are important to women and to determine how women are likely to vote.
Explaining the rationale for the new site, Lisa Stone, programming director for Women.com, says, "It's an underreported fact that women have been the voting majority since 1964." In the 1996 race, President Clinton was re-elected largely because of the 11-point gender split in his favor among women voters. "In the same year that women are poised to take over the Net, we'll also choose who our next president will be," Stone adds.
The Majority 2000 site, which plans to launch next January, is part of a growing trend of powerful voting blocs using the Internet to flex their political muscles. Earlier this month, the AFL-CIO announced that it was partnering with the Massachusetts-based company iBelong to produce a Web service called Workingfamilies.com. Scheduled to launch Dec. 1, Workingfamilies.com will offer all the features of a traditional Internet service provider, plus added facilities to make it easy for members to contact elected officials and corporations. Other efforts include Rock the Vote, aimed at young voters, and Starmedia's soon-to-be-launched Voto 2000, which targets the Latino community.
In August, Oxygen Media announced that it had received $4.5 million from the Markle Foundation to form Oxygen-Markle Plus, a publicly accessible market-research firm designed to measure and reflect women's opinions on a variety of subjects from consumer tastes to public affairs. That project uses the politically connected polling firm of Penn-Schoen & Berland, which has counted Bill Clinton among its clients. For its part, the Good Housekeeping-Women.com project is retaining Harris Interactive, one of the premier online polling firms.
Of course, the political impact of such Net initiatives has yet to be proved. But executives at Good Housekeeping and Women.com say that Elizabeth Dole's withdrawal last week from the 2000 presidential primary convinced them that such a project was necessary. More than 1,800 women responded to an online survey about Dole's candidacy, and many wrote heartfelt responses. Marqueta Bentley, of Oklahoma City, for example, wrote, "I was sad when I heard that Mrs. Dole had pulled from the 2000 Presidential Race. I and many of my friends think that Mrs. Dole has impeccable credentials and would have been a very knowledgeable president. I hope that Mr. Bush will choose Mrs. Dole as his running mate. We are ready to put Mrs. Dole to work in the White House. She has paid her dues politically and proved to be an asset in any position she has held."
"We believe that this is one of the instruments that can help give women the sense that their vote really matters," says Ellen Levine, Good Housekeeping's editor in chief.