It's true, and it's a brilliant marketing gimmick if not exactly the most electorally sound: MySpace will be inviting each of its members to vote in their very own primary on January 1st and 2nd, 2008, prior to any of the state primaries. Said MySpace president Tom Anderson (that's MySpace Tom to you): "Iowa and New Hampshire may be selecting delegates, but the MySpace vote will be the first test of where candidates stand in the election year."
Wow. Sort of scary, when you think about it. How difficult is it, exactly to sign up for a MySpace account? For multiple MySpace accounts? You certainly don't have to be American to do so. Or of voting age (especially not of voting age, which is why MySpace got into some hot water with respect to its underage users). But, like the voting for American Idol, that matters not — all that matters is the numbers, and when they come down next January you can bet they will shift the dynamic of the primaries. This is what they're talking about when they talk about the power of the web in 2008.
And what are those numbers, by the way? Per WebPro News:
According to comScore Media Metrics MySpace has 65 million American visitors every month and 85 percent of them are of voting age. In addition Nielsen//NetRatings indicates that MySpace users 18 and older have a high level of efficacy and are three times more likely to interact online with a public official or candidate. They also found that MySpace users are 42 percent more likely to watch online video relating to politics, 35 percent more likely to research politics online and 44 percent more likely to listen to online audio having to do with politics.
Perspective from Michael Arrington at TechCrunch:
MySpace has more registered members than the population of Mexico. If it was a country it would be the 11th largest in the world.
Wow. Those numbers will talk. Of course, most of the candidates have MySpace pages already (Arrington's got them all linked here) and are engaged in all manner of webitude (most recently, John Edwards was highlighted for his early adoption of Twitter). And of course they all boast thousands of friends and all sorts of friend-messages ("Hey! Thanks for the add! Good luck in '08!") — but are these numbers meaningful? Is this a great way to engage young voters in democracy or a means of muddying the waters through an election where new "voters" can be signed up by volunteers, phone-bank style, over the next year? ETP agrees with Arrington's stated preference for a Facebook primary: "Facebook's user accounts are each tied to an email address or cell phone, resulting in far fewer fake or duplicate accounts. Given the low quality of the MySpace user base (multiple accounts, no identity check, etc.) it would be relatively easy for a campaign to create a significant number of fake accounts to stuff the ballot box in their favor. Facebook can also tie their users to U.S. residency much easier than MySpace. The results would actually be interesting."
MySpace may not less interested in interesting than in making an electoral splash, just because they can. What will be interesting will be how the standings in this primary reshuffle the standings in the primaries to come. In the meantime, we couldn't decide who to vote for for an accompanying illustration so we decided to post a pic of MySpace Tom from his MySpace page. I figured I could do that, because we're friends. Vote for Tom!