Once dominated by television advertising, political campaigning methods have changed from one-time contact to establishing ongoing relationships over the course of the campaign.
In the 2008 presidential election, the Barack Obama iPhone application, Obama ’08, would rank a user’s phone book contacts in terms of geographical proximity and inform the user how many of their friends they still had to call and ask to vote.
In this year’s elections, there has been a growing use of Twitter as a way for potential voters to not only retweet and distribute information, but also to immediately debate and engage in conversations on issues.
This summer, the evolving nature of campaign techniques will be the focus of a three-course institute on digital campaigning offered at UCLA for the first time.
The institute, comprised of two political science classes and one communication studies class, will combine electioneering, political marketing and campaign technology to give students both theoretical and practical knowledge of the process of modern campaigning, said Tim Groeling, chair of the communication studies department.
The three classes ““ Political Science 149: Elections and Electioneering in California; Political Science 149-2: Digital Campaigning Basics; and Communication Studies 138: Political Marketing ““ will be offered through summer session A.
This three-course summer institute came about as a joint effort between Groeling and Jeff Lewis, the chair of the political science department. The two professors wanted to give students an understanding of the underlying purpose and technology used to engage in contemporary online campaigning, Lewis said.
The goal of the class is to prepare students who are interested in going into politics for the new types of campaigning that are emerging, Groeling said. This summer institute set-up will allow students to gain an intensive experience and training before going straight into the campaigning process in the fall, he added.
With digital methods of campaigning filtering down from presidential races to local elections, students should be in the position to go and actually campaign for state and local offices after they have finished the institute, Lewis said.
“Political science is a field that is undergoing huge changes in terms of how campaigns work,” Groeling said. “We want students to be leaders in that.”
Political campaigns now rely more on peer-to-peer contact and social media to reach younger voters, Groeling said. This is an area that even people who have been involved in politics for several years may be interested in, he said.
Gabrielle Satter, a second-year political science student, said she would be interested in taking the class now that she is able to vote and intends on following the upcoming elections closely.
“I think classes like this would help me to learn about who I’m voting for,” Satter said.
Each of the classes will focus on different aspects of running a campaign, said Sylvia Friedel, a graduate student in political science and the instructor of the course on electioneering.
Together, the institute courses will give students a comprehensive look at the campaign process from beginning to end, she said.
In Political Science 149, the more theoretical class, students will learn about campaign methods and principles, including the best ways to run a campaign and campaign laws, Friedel said.
Students will then be able to apply this knowledge in the two other classes, which offer a more hands-on and project-based perspective of the process, Groeling said.
They will have the opportunity to work in groups and develop campaign strategies for hypothetical candidates, Lewis added.
The digital campaigning course will teach students how to use modern tools and software packages, said Russ Fagaly, senior client manager at digital strategy agency Blue State Digital and the instructor of the digital campaigning basics course.
The institute will also host guest speakers who work in politics, such as pollsters and people in the media who cover politics, Friedel said.
“In terms of the modern way of distributing information, I feel like online is the way to go,” said Joseph Chen, a third-year communication studies student.
Although Chen is more interested in watching how elections play out rather than being directly involved, he said he would be interested in taking the classes because it would help him understand marketing in terms of how to reach as many audiences as possible.
Currently, about 10 students have registered for the institute, Groeling said, adding that advertising has not been as extensive as hoped.
About 10 more students need to enroll in the institute for it to take place, but Communication Studies 138, the political marketing class, will take place regardless, Groeling said.