(2004-01-27) Shirky Blame Blogging For Dean Iowa Loss

Clay Shirky on whether Social Software actually cost Howard Dean the IowaCaucus. We know well from past attempts to use social software to organize groups for political change that it is hard, very hard, because participation in online communities often provides a sense of satisfaction that actually dampens a willingness to interact with the Real World... "Would you vote for Howard Dean?" and "Will you vote for Howard Dean?" are two different questions, and it may be that a lot of people who "would" vote for Dean, in some hypothetical world where you could vote in the same way you can make a political donation on Amazon, didn't actually vote for him when it meant skipping dinner with friends to drive downtown in the freezing cold and venture into some church basement with people who might prefer some other candidate to Dean. Clay seems to be suggesting that people's choice of candidate didn't change, but just that (Iowan) Dean supporters didn't actually bother going to the caucus to vote (to a greater extent than the poll-voters of other candidates). I wonder whether there's any data to support this?

Feb3 new followup. It does a great job of talking about the implications of lowering barriers to action. It also notes So where did his 30 point lead go? Why would someone say they would vote for Dean if they weren't actually sure? I believe that last category contains a clue as to Dean's collapse in the polls - Dean lost among voters who waited til January to decide who to vote for, which is to say almost everybody. Prior to January, "Howard Dean" was pronounced "AnybodyButBush."... For any Democrat whose primary motivation was not a bundle of particular policy proposals but the chance to send the current President home, Dean was the man of the hour. In this view, the change in the poll numbers in January reflected not a transfer of votes from Dean to Kerry but rather from the general to the specific... A couple of weeks before the primaries, though, voters in those states started to have to make some real decisions, transferring their sense of "Anybody but Bush" to a specific Democratic candidate. And sometimes that candidate was Howard Dean. But mostly not.

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