By reading this column you prove yourself to be an exception to the rule.
You are an exception because you are doing things that most people don’t do or are not doing yet. Not only are you reading (which is becoming exceptional all by itself), you are also reading about politics, and it’s still several weeks before a major election. On top of that, you are reading about gun politics, which most people understand is all written by dangerous radicals and extremists. You are an exception because you care enough about our nation to seek out information, study issues, learn about candidates and cast an educated vote.
A few days after the 2008 general election, I was exploring how Americans research before casting their votes, and I discovered a surprising phenomenon. Looking at search data from the giant Google Internet search engine to see how often people searched for key phrases, such as “Obama + gun control” in the days leading up to the election, I found, as expected, that search traffic increased dramatically as the election drew closer.
But the surprise was that the highest number of searches on key issues – almost double the previous day’s count – did not occur in the days before the election, but on the day after.
The data indicated that to a significant number of Americans, the major political question is not, “What are we going to do?” but rather, “What have we done?”
To see twice as many searches focused on critical issues the day after the election, compared to the day before is troubling at best. I’d like to see some political science professor do some serious research into this phenomenon and give us a better idea of what it’s all about.
Until then, I want to put the less confusing findings of my research to work. Search traffic for politicians’ names linked to key issues shows a very slow and steady increase leading up to Labor Day. After Labor Day there is a slight increase, but not the big bounce that intuition might suggest.
The search numbers don’t actually begin to increase significantly until the two weeks or so before the election, and then they do so dramatically (sometimes doubling day-to-day) right up through Election Day.
What this suggests is that, while we knew that most people don’t think about politics until after Labor Day, there appears to be an awful lot of folks who don’t look at politics until days or even hours before voting.
This news is both good and bad for activists wishing to impact elections. The bad news is that much of the hard work they do leading up to Election Day may be wasted, or at least not very economical.
The good news is that activists can have a major impact on an election right up to the last moment.
When we launched www.GunVoter.org in March 2008, our vision for the candidate-focused forum site relied on a “build it and they will come” model. We hoped that if we created the space and let people know about it, they would flesh it out by each sharing their own candidate research for their corner of the country. So far that model hasn’t worked out, because it seems people are more interested in learning than teaching. Even now, with over 2,000 registered users and countless thousands of unregistered visitors to the site, most of the hard data is posted by us, and we don’t have the staff to keep up with it all.
This year’s elections are too important to wait for the users to drive the information, so I’ve begun actively recruiting volunteers to collect and post relevant data and links. With that solid foundation of information, I hope we’ll see the interactive component of the board take off as well. If you’re interested in participating in this effort, (especially if you know phpBB,) or you’d just like to see what’s going on, I encourage you to stop by the site and drop me a message.
In the next few weeks, thousands of voters will be waking up and seeking information about the candidates. What those voters find could depend on you. The more information there is at GunVoter.org, the more useful it will be and the more people will find it, use it, discuss it and add to it, making it more useful and drawing more visitors.
Please help spread the word about GunVoter.org to activists, candidates, political parties, anyone interested in gaining or sharing pertinent information, and if you’d like to lend a hand, let me know.
Knowledge is power only if it is shared and used; and www.GunVoter.org is an ideal forum for sharing, growing and applying knowledge to realize power and overcome the ignorance, apathy and emotion that is destroying the republic.