Candidates close generation gap with Facebook, MySpace

Candidates close generation gap with Facebook, MySpace

By Kristin Lusis

The campaign for the 2008 presidency isn’t just going to be fought with posters, T-shirts and buttons. The frontrunners are also taking advantage of websites like Facebook and MySpace to reach a wider – and younger – audience. From Sen. Barack Obama’s Facebook interests in basketball and Bob Dylan to former Gov. Mitt Romney’s favorite books, The News stacked four candidates’ online profiles against each other.

Hillary Clinton

New York Sen. Hillary Clinton’s Facebook profile isn’t part of the Yale University network, her alma mater. Instead, along with all the presidential candidates, she is a member of the Election 2006 network. Students cannot add Clinton as a friend (or any of the other candidates), but they can click “Support Hillary,” which will add her to the candidates they support. Her profile is informational, with notes posted about her policies and a short biography about her middle-class upbringing. Clinton has also received Facebook gifts including foam fingers and a rose. Many students won’t be able to top her 2,868 wall posts from students voicing their opinions.

On Clinton’s MySpace page, she has 34,680 friends, with a Top 12 showing young people from around the country. Interested parties also learn that she is married, is on MySpace for “networking and friends” and her Zodiac sign is Scorpio. Her blog entries are various endorsements for her presidency.

Barack Obama

Obama, another Democratic presidential frontrunner and an Illinois Senator, has a less formal Facebook profile than Clinton’s. His interests include basketball, writing and “loafing with the kids.” He also enjoys the music of Bob Dylan, John Coltrane and Stevie Wonder. His profile shows he graduated from Harvard Law School in 1991, from Columbia University in 1983 with a degree in political science and Punahou High School in Hawaii in 1979. His Facebook has 4,954 wall posts and notes imported from his website, www.barackobama.com from the campaign trail and links to where you can listen to broadcasts of his speeches. Unlike the other candidates, Obama does not have a MySpace page.

John McCain

Arizona senator John McCain enjoys hiking and fishing and watching Jack Bauer fight crime on “24.” At least that’s what the 70-year-old Republican frontrunner listed under his interests in his MySpace profile. With 4,057 friends, McCain reveals his heroes are former presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater, a former Arizona Senator and 1964 presidential nominee. McCain’s blog entries include one titled “Surrendering is Not an Option” where he voices his support for the Iraq War, and “Join the McCain Basketball Bracket,” where the winner received a McCain 2008 hat, fleece jacket or pin.

On McCain’s Facebook profile, his 167 wall posts pale beside the Democratic candidates’, and he doesn’t list as much personal information. His listed interests are the same as on his MySpace, but here students can learn about his education history and that he’s serving his 20th year in the Senate.

Mitt Romney

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney isn’t camera shy – he has 15 Facebook albums with 185 photos tagged of himself, the most of all the candidates. Most are taken on the campaign trail, but he also has an album titled “Family,” featuring photos of his wedding and his children. Like Clinton and Obama, Romney provides his phone number under his contact information. As of yesterday, his status was updated to show that he is in Texas. A big country music fan, Romney enjoys Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson and Toby Keith. Among his interests the former governor lists skiing, horseback riding and running. Romney doesn’t shy from the big issues and includes “to win the war against the jihadists and to ensure that Americans are kept safe” as an interest.

On his MySpace profile, the song that plays when the page is opened is a remix of Elvis Presley’s “A Little Less Conversation.” His 4,760 friends include family members and supporters, and his details reveal he’s a “proud parent” here for “networking and friends.” His listed interests are the same as on Facebook.

Students speak out

While Facebook and MySpace reveal a personal side of the candidates, not all students feel they are effective campaigning tools.

“Facebook is a great way of reaching young people but it’s a weak tool because it’s just a simple click. You can support someone without having to do anything for it, when in reality, it takes more work than that,” said Josh Robin, president of NU College Democrats and founder of NU for Obama. “You can’t use it as a voting database. Facebook is really a measure of excitement. I don’t know if it will get people to vote.”

But some students disagree. Joey Fiore, a middler geology and history major and newly-elected student body president, said promoting yourself through Facebook is valuable.

“Obama is the most in touch with young people, and he will have a better idea of what they want to see,” he said.

Jenna Taylor, a sophomore business major, said students should look beyond social networking websites when choosing a candidate.

“This could be a good tool to reach out to young people as long as they don’t take it too seriously,” she said. “Young people need to know that they need to do more than just go on Facebook to find out who to vote for.”

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