Republicans beat Democrats at marrying online community to offline actions in 2004

Quoting from The Internet Gap – by Micah L. Sifry (from Personal Democracy Forum)

Kerry voters were two-and-a-half times as likely to participate in online discussions or chat groups about the election than Bush voters, almost twice as likely to register their opinions in online surveys, and four-and-a-half times as likely to contribute money online to a candidate, according to the just-released Pew Internet study. Remember the “gender gap”? Now it looks like there’s an “Internet gap.”

Patrick Ruffini, Bush-Cheney ’04’s webmaster, has helpfully placed the relevant chart on his blog, and he argues that, contrary to appearances, there’s mixed news for the left in this finding. Democrats, he suggests, “tend to excel at the web-only kind” of e-activism, “while the Republicans focus on building powerful synergies between the online and the offline.” He continues:

And the web-only kind of activism has a mixed track record at best. At first, MoveOn’s “Bush in 30 Seconds” ad contest seemed like a trailblazing concept. Until you saw the God-awful ad that won, and realized that, like most MoveOn initiatives before or since, all that energy was simply being dumped into a rat hole. Just how credible and useful are online polls when your guy wins with 90% of the vote? And using a chat room or posting a comment on a blog is not in itself a productive political act; for one thing, you could be out talking to undecideds instead of preaching to the online choir, and secondly, in the blogosphere, quality matters more than quantity. A thousand blogs echoing the WaPo/NYT line will never be as effective as fifty blogs providing an interesting and original alternative voice, probing for weaknesses in the MSM Death Star.

My two cents: Like most debates about the relative merits of different political strategies, this one is colored indelibly by the fact that the Republicans won. GOP e-activists are also doing a good job of presenting themselves as the most net-savvy, most concerned with pushing power to the edges of their network, etc.