Presidential Primary 2.0?

If Web 2.0 isn’t really about any particular suite of technologies, but rather about understanding how to harness the internet more effectively, whatever your field of endeavor, have we really searched out how to apply it to politics. Peter Meyers had a great take on this question on an internal O’Reilly mailing list. He wrote:

So far the Web’s been used as a political tool mainly in a partisan way —
for candidates’ sites, single-issue organizations, activists, and so on. But
what if somebody created a Web-based tool that served a much broader group
of people?

Here’s my LazyWeb idea: On November 4, 2007 (1 year before the actual
presidential election), some neutral organization should stage an Internet
primary for both Republican and Democratic candidates. It obviously couldn’t
be totally secure and/or accurate, but you could implement a few small
requirements (e.g. one vote per email address) to prevent massive abuse.
It’d be different from the zillion different polls currently being done —
assuming sufficient publicity could be generated — since you could stage it
as a tide-turning one-time-only event.

With all the jockeying among states vying to upstage Iowa and New
Hampshire’s disproportionate early primary influence, wouldn’t it be kind of
neat if someone harnessed the Web’s “collective intelligence” to gauge the
early preferences of voters across the country?

Sounds like a job for Carl Malamud!

  • Sam

    You’re not the only people to think of this:

  • dbt

    Various activist sites like and do run blog polls regularly.

  • Gil

    You should check out Collactive. they have a very interesting community mobilizer technology – a perfect example of how to harness the power of the internet for election use (election or any other cause)

    I wrote a post about it here

  • That sounds very much like that the folks at Unity08 are trying to do, except they’re focusing on actually nominating a ticket after the regular primaries happen. It would be awesome if someone tech-savvy like ORA could partner with them to make sure they took full advantage of the web (and Web 2.0).

  • This would only be interesting if:

    1. it were able to generate widespread interest and participation on both sides of the political spectrum
    2. it included all declared/likely candidates from all parties — not just some arbitrarily selected shortlist of ‘realistic’ candidates

  • “It’d be different from the zillion different polls currently being done…”

    It would be different in that there would be greater potential for huge errors in sampling, response rate, and survey design. Security concerns aside, such a poll will struggle mightily to make any claim of representativeness for its results.

    “A reliable sample selects poll respondents randomly or in a manner that insures that everyone in the area being surveyed has a known chance of being selected.” –

    There are good reasons that organizations like the NY Times still do not treat internet polls as reliable.

  • Jim G

    The Iowa Electronics Market has been running “prediction markets” on elections since 1988 and has outperformed the major polls 75% of the time. It harnesses the collective intelligence of particpants buy allowing them to buy/sell futures contracts based on # votes they think candidates will get. This is one of most referenced examples of decision/prediction markets around. Since then, sites like the Hollywood Exchange and NewsFutures have popped up, all based on the same principle.