Rogue Scholar Shield Small The Virtual Campaign: Presidential Primary Websites in Campaign 2000

William L. Benoit
Pamela J. Benoit
@ University of Missouri


This essay begins by arguing that candidate webpages will become increasing important as a campaign communication medium. We discuss the advantages and disadvantages of webpages for both candidates and voters. Then we develop a set of design criteria for evaluating candidate webpages. Using webpages downloaded in March and May of 1999, we placed candidate webpages into four groups, based on our criteria. The worst webpages were from Bush and Smith. The second lowest group included Bauer, Buchanan, Kasich, and Keyes (later, Keyesı webpage was completely redesigned and would have ranked much higher had we assessed the later version). The second best group included Bradley, Dole, Forbes, McCain, and Quayle. Finally, we judged the webpages of Alexander and Gore to be the best, according to our criteria.


Efficient and inexpensive, the Internet is becoming vastly popular among American voters -- and that’s good news for candidates. If it continues to grow as predicted, the Internet will soon stand alongside the conventional media and become an indispensable tool in political communication. (Selnow, 1998, p. xxii)

It is increasingly apparent that use of the world wide web is growing rapidly, but we may not have realized just how far it has come in such a short period of time. In 1996, 40 million people had access to the Internet (Selnow, 1998, p. xiv). By 1998, this figure had grown almost 50%, as 57 million people now have access to the Internet (Scenic Digital, 1999). A recent Pew Research Center Poll found that 41% of Americans use the Internet in 1999, up from 23% in just two years ("Internet Users," 1999). Buie predicts that by 2000, "more than half of Americans will be connected to the Internet" (1999). While many voters still do not have Internet access, tens of millions do, and there can be no doubt that the number of people with Internet access will continue to increase substantially as the price of equipment decreases and software browsers become more user friendly.

Of course, some Internet users are not politically active -- but a surprising number use the web to obtain political information. Mallery reported that "modem owners have a much higher probability of voting (Skiba, 1995, p. 20A). Bucy, D’Angelo, and Newhagen (1999) found that "respondents who said they voted also reported heavier media use across all channels, including. . . the Internet" than non-voters (p. 342). An exit poll from the 1996 election found that of those who voted, "twenty-six percent are regular Internet users" (Buie, 1999, emphasis original). Furthermore, many people use the web expressly to obtain political information. An AT&T public opinion poll in 1996 revealed that 65% of respondents wanted to research candidate issue positions on the web (Gach, 1996). Buie reported that a Washington Post poll found that "one-third of voters said the Internet was a source of information about the election" (1999). Seventy percent of people aged 18 to 25 believe the Internet is a useful source of information on "issues important to the country. They were more likely to look to the Internet than to more traditional sources of information" ("Young Voters," 1999, p. 8A). Thus, the world wide web is increasingly viewed as a source of information, especially for younger adults. Some voters visited non-partisan sites like PoliticsNow, Politics1, or Project Vote Smart, but IntelliQuest reported that 24% of Internet users had accessed a candidate site in 1996 (Stone, 1996, p. 50).

There is also an indication of voter influence from information obtained via the Internet. First, information is obtained from on-line sources. More Internet users could identify Bob Dole as the candidate who proposed a 15% tax cut than non-users, and more users associated Bill Clinton with the phrase "bridge to the future" than non-users (Pew, "One in Ten," 1996). This information may influence their voting decisions. Chandrasekaran (1996) reported that after the 1996 elections, "9% of voters surveyed said information they found on the Internet influenced their vote. That figure translates into about 8.5 million people nationwide" (p. A4). Buie believes that "millions of [Americans] will use their computers to participate in the political process" in the 2000 election (1999). Hansen (1999) found that viewing presidential primary web sites in early 1999 changed perceptions about candidates, but not levels of trust or support. The Internet, as a completely new medium for political campaigning, is already beginning to exert its potential for disseminating information and thereby affecting the voting behavior of millions of voters.

With a growing number of people connected to the web, many of whom actively seek political information, we should not be surprised that politicians are beginning to tap the vast potential of the Internet for their political campaigns. In 1996 "campaigns often provided their website addresses (URLs) in brochures, on the air, and in speeches. Bob Dole gave his URL on national television in the second presidential debate" (Selnow, 1998, p. 88). Dole’s world wide web site generated considerable traffic: it "lured a grand total of three million hits, 10,000 people have joined the e-mailing list, and 1,700 have signed on to volunteer." Similarly Buchanan’s site averaged about 10,000 visits per day (Dongen, 1996, p. 21). The Clinton/Gore campaign, the Republican and Democratic Parties, and other candidates and parties also had Internet sites in the 1996 election (Stone, 1996). Thus, political candidates and parties are increasingly utilizing the Internet as a medium for communicating with voters.

Campaigns & Elections surveyed 270 candidates, staff members, and consultants who were working on 1998 campaigns in local, state, and federal elections. Sixty-three percent of campaigns reported having a web site and 20% planned to create one. Almost ninety percent thought that the Internet is important and is already changing, or will change, political campaigning ("Campaigns & Elections," 1999). The survey identified (from most to least important) ten purposes of the Internet in politics: giving voters information about candidacy, giving information about policy, giving political information and campaign news, communicating with supporters and endorsers, providing information to voters about how and where to vote, recruiting volunteers, providing information and news about the community, seeking voter opinions on issues, raising money, and attacking the opposition. Only 4.7% of respondents thought their web sites were unsuccessful, although many said it was too early to tell if they had accomplished their goals ("Campaigns & Elections," 1999). Nearly every site (97.1%) included biographical information about the candidate. Most contained discussion of policy (89.9%), links to other web sites (78.2%), and some feedback, communication, or survey option (52.4%). Many (38.2%) solicited volunteers or financial contributions. Only a few sites provided audio or video (6.5%) or chat rooms (4.1%; "Campaigns & Elections," 1999).

In the 2000 presidential election cycle, Steve Forbes became the first candidate to announce his campaign via the Internet (and other candidates made available text and video from their announcement speeches on their web sites). Forbes declared that the Internet is "a way to bring politics and power back to the people in a way that was not possible in the era of mass media" like radio and television ("Forbes Begins," 1999, p. 8A). Another indication of the growing importance of the Internet in political campaigns is the fact that in March of 1999, almost one year before the first primary of the 2000 campaign, the leading presidential candidates had Internet sites: Lamar Alexander (Lamar Alexander for President), Bill Bradley (Bill Bradley for President), Pat Buchanan (Buchanan 2000: Patrick J. Buchanan for President), George W. Bush (George W. Bush Presidential Exploratory Committee), Elizabeth Dole (Elizabeth Dole for President Exploratory Committee), Steve Forbes (Steve Forbes National Online Headquarters), John Kasich (Kasich 2000), Alan Keyes (Keyes 2000 - Alan Keyes for President), John McCain (John McCain for President), Dan Quayle (Quayle 2000), and Bob Smith ("Bob Smith for President). Al Gore opened his site on April 6 (Gore 2000). There are also some web pages devoted to drafting potential candidates (e.g., Tom Harkin, Fred Thompson). The list of campaign (or exploratory committee) web pages is remarkable given the early date. The Internet as a medium for political campaigning is clearly here to stay. As Birdsell, Muzzio, Taylor, and Krane (1996) observed, web "is well on its way to becoming an important medium for campaign communication" (p. 34).

However, this potentially important medium -- new but with a staggering and rapidly increasing audience reach -- is not well understood. There is relatively little scholarly literature on the Internet as a medium of political campaigning. Nor have candidates figured out how best to use this new tool. Faucheux, editor-in-chief of Campaigns & Elections, declared that "The Internet is not only the newest [campaign] medium, it is the fastest-growing and least understood" ("63%," 1999). Witt, executive editor of the PoliticsNow web site, explained that campaign sites in 1996 were not interactive because "the campaigns don’t know who their target audiences are on the net" (quoted in Stone, 1996, p. 44). Hurwitz observed that 1996 political campaign "site developers were so mired in the broadcast model that they overlooked the extraordinary benefits of getting information from voters, thereby discarding the medium’s greatest gift" (Selnow, 1998, p. xxiii). More work is needed for scholars, candidates and their advisors, the media, and voters to understand the potential, and the pitfalls, of the world wide web for political campaigning.

This essay will explore the emerging campaign medium of the world wide web with an analysis of presidential web sites in the pre-primary season of the 2000 campaign. First, we will elucidate the advantages and disadvantages of campaigning on the world wide web. Then we review the literature on the Internet as a medium for political campaigns. Third, we develop a set of design criteria for evaluating political web sites. Next, we analyze presidential candidate web sites in the pre-primary period of the 2000 campaign, evaluating them with the criteria we developed. Finally, we discuss the implications of our investigation for political campaigning.


As we discuss the advantages and disadvantages of Internet campaigning, we will focus on the pros and cons for candidates. However, we will also consider the voters’ point of view.

Advantages of the Internet for Campaigning

The Internet has nine advantages for political candidates. First, of course, the world wide web is an additional medium that can supplement traditional campaign media. Political campaigns have a variety of media available for conveying their messages, including stump speeches, newspaper advertisements, direct mail, radio spots, television spots, talk shows, and debates. Each medium has its own advantages and disadvantages, and while there is overlap in the audiences they possess, each medium reaches a different configuration of voters. Candidates employ the mix of media that best fits their budget, message, and target audience. The Internet adds another possibility, increasing the candidate’s options. However, it has several other advantages that are unique to this medium.

Selnow (1998) declared that the Internet should not be considered merely another medium because it is the "master medium." The Internet can include text and photos like newspapers, audio like radio, and audio, text, and video like television. The quality of video on the Internet doesn’t yet match video on television, but the technology is persistently improving. Although he doesn’t discuss direct mail, candidates can use the Internet to distribute the same text that appears in these messages without any postage costs.

As indicated above, the potential audience for a world wide web site is huge and growing. Although many people lack Internet access, millions are connected, and that number rises daily. Furthermore, as indicated above, about a quarter of voters visited candidate web sites in 1996 and many reported that the information obtained on the Internet had influenced their vote. A third advantage is the huge and insistently increasing size of the potential Internet audience.

Fourth, Tedesco, Miller, and Spiker (1999) explained that "web pages are much less expensive than televised political ads" (p. 53). When you consider how much contemporary candidates spend on television advertising, this advantage comes into focus quickly. For example, in 1996, Dole, Clinton, and Perot jointly spent about $200 million on television advertising (Devlin, 1997). Selnow (1998) also argues that using the Internet is far more convenient, or costs campaigns less time, than producing television spots:

You need writers, producers, camera operators. . . For television spots, you need someone to place the ads and buy the time. . . And if the candidates appear in the spots, they must prepare, report to a studio, and powder up before they sit in front of the camera. . . . The Internet posed no such barriers. In fact, campaigns were confronted by an army of young workers and volunteers [to develop web pages]. (p. 83)

So, using the Internet to disseminate campaign messages involves less cost than other media in terms of time, personnel, and money.

A fifth advantage of the Internet is that it provides an incredible opportunity for audience adaptation and personalization of campaign messages. Selnow (1998) explains that "Through e-mail, it allows the delivery of individual messages and personal appeals to voters. Through chat rooms, it offers candidates direct access to virtual communities of voters. Through the web it allows voters to seek out items of personal interest about the candidate and the campaign" (pp. xxi-xxii). The ability to personalize messages through e-mail, to obtain direct (virtual) access to voters, and to permit voters to seek out information that interests them personally is very important.

We particularly want to elaborate on the third aspect of personalization or adaptation. Different voters have different interests. In the 1996 campaign, for example, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll asked which factor was most important in determining their presidential vote: 65% of respondents said that the candidates’ positions on the issues was most important, while 27% said the candidates’ personal character was most important. A web site can provide information on both the candidate’s character and on his or her positions on the issues. Visitors have the power to decide which information to access when they visit a web site. Voters who consider character paramount can spend most, or all, of their time on a web site learning about the candidate’s character. On the other hand, those who care more about issues or policy can devote their time to acquiring information about the candidate’s issue positions. That same poll asked respondents which issue was most important, finding that 33% selected jobs and the economy, 18% education, 18% the budget deficit, 14% Medicare and health, 9% taxes, and 9% crime and drugs. Candidate web pages can include position statements and discussions of accomplishments in each issue area, and visitors who care about issues have the power to choose which topics to explore, and how much time to spend on each. Thus, if a web page is well-designed, individual voters have the power to learn about the topics that matter most to them -- and to ignore or skim the topics of little or no interest. No other medium has this incredible potential to permit a multitude of diverse auditors to each tailor a rhetor’s message to suit their own individual interests and concerns.

Sixth, the Internet is, at least potentially, interactive: "unlike all the other media, which send but do not receive, the Internet can interact with its users as individuals" (Selnow, 1998, p. 42). Candidates can (and do) include informal polls on their web sites to assess the opinions of voters who visit their sites. Candidates can solicit feedback about their messages or policy positions through a web site. Candidates can, themselves or through a staff person, interact directly with voters. Candidates can include a chat room so that interested voters can interact in "virtual space" -- and the campaign can monitor and learn from those discussions. The Internet is more interactive than any other medium besides face-to-face interaction (and perhaps the telephone). And the world wide web is clearly more efficient than dyadic interaction, which, by definition, is one-on-one contact. Depending only on the increasingly sophisticated hardware and software, thousands (or more) of voters can interact with a candidate’s web site simultaneously.

A seventh advantage is that candidates can provide longer, more complete messages to voters. Knisley, director of electronic communication for the Republican National Committee, explained that "I see the Internet. . . as an extension of the 30-second sound bite, which doesn’t handle issues very well. The Internet allows us to offer more depth for the topics presented in other places" (Selnow, 1998, p. 82; see Tedesco, Miller, & Spiker, 1999). We know that television spots are predominantly 30 seconds long (Benoit, in press), a length of time that does not permit candidates to discuss issues in depth. Web pages provide candidates with the opportunity to develop their policy positions in depth (of course, some politicians may prefer to remain vague on some issues). As noted above, a voter can read, listen to, and watch as much information as the web site provides on topics that matter to each individual voter. Web pages have the potential to provide a great deal of information for voters who are interested in a topic. As we will see next, the news media can only be counted on to provide voters with ever-decreasing sound bites from candidates’ messages.

Of course, the candidates’ messages are not the only places voters can obtain information about the candidates: there is also the nightly news. However, we may not realize that the network news is simply not the optimum venue for voters to obtain information about candidates and their issue positions. First, both the number (Steele & Barnhurst, 1996) and length of campaign stories (Hallin, 1992) has decreased 20% from 1968-1988. Second, when they do cover the campaign, the news media devote more time to the competitive nature of the campaign than to the issues of the election. Lichter, Noyes, and Kaid (1999) lamented "the media’s tendency to cover the ‘horse race’ aspect of the campaign while offering relatively little information about substantive policy issues" (p. 4). Third, voters hear less and less from the candidates themselves when the media does cover the candidates’ messages. Hallin (1992) reported that when candidates are allowed to speak on the news (e.g., in video-clips and interviews), the average quotation from a political candidate in the news shrunk from 43 seconds in 1968 to only 9 seconds in 1988. Lichter, Noyes, and Kaid (1999) found that this figure dropped to a mere 8.2 seconds in 1996 (p. 6). So, the news is far from an ideal source of information about the issues in a presidential campaign.

Furthermore, the fact that the news rarely lets candidates speak for themselves means that the media functions as a filter, determining what parts of a candidate message reaches viewers and offering interpretations of those messages:

Press reports insert the journalist between the candidate and the voter with three effects. First, they filter information from interviews or political events. What gets through the filter may not be what the candidate intended. . . Second, reporters interpret. . . . The context, explanations, even a description of the candidate’s appearance can affect audience perceptions of the candidates and their messages. . . . Third, news stories look for angles that may not square with the candidates’ agendas. (Selnow, 1998, pp. 90-91; see also Tedesco, Miller, & Spiker, 1999)

A site on the World Wide Web, in contrast, gives candidates the opportunity to communicate directly to voters, without permitting the mass media to select what parts of a candidate’s message voters will see, interpret the meaning of that message, or comment on the significance or implications of that message (cf. Lichter, Noyes, & Kaid, 1999). Selnow (1998) explained that "You set the agenda and discuss the things you find important. If you don’t want to bring up the fact that you misled kids on the spelling of potato, you don’t have to. Instead, you can brag about your proper spelling of most vegetables, or about your constituent services or your war record" (p. 85). A representative from Dole’s 1996 campaign explained that the Internet "offers a direct avenue of communication between the Dole campaign and the American people" (Skiba, 1995, p. 20A). Thus, a candidate’s Internet site is completely under the candidate’s control, unmediated and unfiltered by the news media.

Another advantage of the Internet was outlined by Trevor Kaufman, a member of the company that designed the Clinton/Gore site in 1996. He explained that "One of our missions is making sure the site is very modular so the campaign can do some rapid-response updating as we get closer to the election" (Stone, 1996, p. 44). Because it is much quicker to edit and reload a web page than, say, to film and distribute a television spot, the Internet is a very quick response medium.

There are five advantages of the Internet for voters as well as these pluses for candidates. Tedesco, Miller, and Spiker (1999) argued that "The biggest advantage of the Internet for campaigning is that it feeds the public’s desire for information" (p. 63). Second, Internet access is increasingly available as the cost of computers and connections fall. Some people access the Internet via public (e.g., library) terminals. Third, with the explosion of information available on the world wide web, a voter can obtain information when the voter wants to receive it (of course, web surfers should be careful to evaluate quality of the information they obtain via the Internet, because there are fewer checks than with traditional media). Just as VCR’s permit television viewers to watch programs when it is convenient, the Internet allows voters to seek information about political candidates whenever they want. A fourth advantage is that the web empowers users in a second way: Voters can control the type and amount of information they access. They can read about the candidates’ character, or accomplishments, or issue positions, while ignoring other information. Internet users can skim the information available on the web or they can go into as much depth on a topic as the site provides. Fifth, the Internet provides access to multiple sources (opposing candidates, parties, supporters, media, or public interest sites like Project Vote Smart), so web users can seek partisan, opposing views or search for sites that are neutral. In short, the Internet provides a wealth of information that voters can use when and how they choose.

Thus, the Internet as a medium for political campaign messages has numerous advantages for candidates and voters alike. We believe that the most important advantages are that it is interactive, unfiltered, and that it empowers voters to learn what they want when they want to learn it. As the Internet continues to grow, these advantages will become even more important.

Disadvantages of the Web for Campaigning

However, we must recognize that the Internet has drawbacks as well as benefits. We identify four primary disadvantages of Internet campaigning for candidates and reject one potential limitation. First, despite the explosion in Internet access described earlier, many voters still do not use the Internet. Some are not connected to the world wide web and will never access the Internet. Most research has found that certain demographic groups (younger, better educated, more affluent) are disproportionately represented on the web. However, one interesting recent development emerged in Pew Research Center poll which found that those who use the Internet increasingly resemble the general population ("Internet Users," 1999). Nevertheless, the fact remains that even if predictions for growth hold true, half of the population will not have Internet access in 2000.

Second, those voters who use the Internet may not visit the candidates’ sites. An absolutely crucial truth is the fact that web sites must attract viewers. As Adelaide Elm, a founding board member of project Vote Smart, explained, the Internet "doesn’t come into their home just because they’ve got the TV on; they have to make the effort to go get it" (Ubois, 1996, p. 58). Television spots, for example, appeal to the audience who is attracted to the programming in which the spot is broadcast. A candidate advertising on "The CBS Evening News," for example, pays for the opportunity to communicate with people who tune in to see the news. But with a web site, voters must be attracted to visit the candidates’ web sites and then be enticed to read some of the material available on it. Similarly, television spots are seen multiple times when time is purchased on several different television shows watched by a viewer or when time is purchased on different episodes of the same show. However, candidates must give people a reason to return to their sites if they want voters to have repeated exposure to their web messages or to view updated or added information. Thus, candidates must work to realize the huge potential audience of Internet users. We would note that many people throw away direct mail without reading those campaign messages, and even the much vaunted television spots can only guarantee a potential audience (i.e., viewers can ignore a political spot or change channels).

Third, one of the advantages of web sites discussed above is that they are relatively inexpensive, compared with other media. However, there are costs (both monetary and staff time) involved in using the Internet, and these costs are directly tied in to some of the potential advantages of this medium. A web site which is regularly up-dated is more costly than one that is created and then ignored. Selnow (1998) noted that one of the complaints against many 1996 sites is that "They assembled a page early in the race, then abandoned it" (p. 80). Digitizing video and audio to realize the multi-media potential of the Internet requires time and money. Diversifying a web site so that it includes materials appealing to a wide variety of voters (allowing audience personalization and adaptation) is more costly than constructing a simpler web site. Interacting with voters takes time. Obtaining an easy Internet address, its URL (universal resource locater, or web address), can be costly. In 1999, for example, someone bought the rights to the URL "" and later sold it at considerable profit to Forbes’ campaign ("Candidates Find," 1999). Thus, while web sites may be a bargain, the better the site, the more it will cost the campaign in both time and money.

There are also technological liabilities to this new technology, a fourth limitation of the Internet. Many web users access the Internet via modems of varying speed. Graphics and video take time to load, and those accessing the web are prone to move on to another Internet site if a page takes too long to access. Given the present state of installed browser software, options like video and audio require additional "plug-in" software which must be downloaded and installed by the user. If the user doesn’t have the required software and is unwilling to take the time to obtain it, that voter will move on to another part of the site (skipping that particular message) or leave the candidate’s site entirely. These potential glitches could even mean more than a lost opportunity to communicate the candidate’s message: Frustration could alienate voters.

It could be argued that another disadvantage is that Internet campaigning is a waste of time because web sites are unlikely to attract, or persuade, voters from the opposing party. Jamieson and Birdsell, for example, write that presidential debates rarely change the voting intention of committed partisans (1988, p. 161). It is easy to imagine this argument applied to web sites. However, web sites are potentially important for two important reasons besides converting committed partisans. First, during the primaries, party affiliation cannot be used to select a party’s nominee because all candidates belong to the same party. Thus, campaign messages, like web pages, have the potential to influence even committed partisans in the primary phase of the campaign. Given the fact that some incumbents are weakened by factors such as the economy (e.g., Gerald Ford in 1976, Jimmy Carter in 1980, George Bush in 1992), it is possible that several candidates from the opposing party could defeat the incumbent. If so, this means that the primary campaigns in such years may actually determine the outcome of the general election (i.e., who gets to face the weak incumbent). Web sites are a potential source of information during primaries.

Second, neither party controls enough of the electorate to assure a victory in the general election. No third party candidate has come close to winning the presidency in recent years, so it is essential to have the support of the Republican or the Democratic Party to win the election. However, neither party has enough voters to determine the outcome of the election. According to the Center for Political Studies National Election Study, more people identified themselves as independents (32%) than Republicans (29%); Democrats also fell short of a majory of voters (38%; Flanigan & Zingale, 1998, p. 61). Candidates must attract independent and uncommitted voters (and the few party members who do defect) in order to win the general election, and it is possible for those voters to be persuaded by messages like candidate web sites. Thus, we do not consider it to be a significant disadvantage that web sites may not be able to convert committed partisans.

There are also disadvantages to the Internet for web users. First, there is the question of access. While hardware is getting cheaper and software more user-friendly, many people are not connected and may never adopt this medium. As Selnow explained, "Millions of people browsed the web during the 1996 elections, but many more millions stayed away, their absence a matter of cost, inertia, and fear" (p. xxiii, emphasis original).

A second limitation of the World Wide Web is that users must find a site before they can use it. Internet search engines often generate a plethora of "hits" that hide the sites a user seeks. For example, searching on "Steve Forbes" brings up the site "Steve Forbes for President" ( which opens with two pictures of Forbes, one between two flags, a logo ("Steve Forbes 2000: National Online Headquarters"), and the statement that Forbes is the "first person in U.S. history to announce their [sic] presidential campaign on the Internet." However, this site wasn’t created by Forbes’ campaign: It sells a computer program offered by the "sponsor" of this site. Searching for "John McCain brought up a non-official web site for John McCain which may confuse visiters into thinking that they have visited his official web page ( Searching for "George W. Bush" brought up site for his 1998 gubernatorial campaign, which could create some confusion. Internet users who encounter difficulty finding a candidate web site may give up searching or decide to visit instead one of the non-candidate sites that was pulled up in their search. Nor does guessing at the URL always work. For example, "Gore2000" brings up an entrepreneur who sells Gore campaign buttons and bumper stickers. Forbes’ official site (despite the logo on the other site must mentioned) is -- without the dash. Thus, people must be able to find the candidates’ web sites for this medium to have the opportunity to inform or persuade voters.

Third, each candidate site is, by definition, intensely partisan rather than objective. Stone (1996) was particularly pessimistic, declaring that campaign sites in 1996 were "filled with meaningless rhetoric, irritating propaganda." He wrote that the Clinton/Gore site "is nearly devoid of objective information for voters looking to educate themselves" and considered the Dole/Kemp site to be similar (p. 44; see also Tedesco, Miller, & Spiker, 1999). It is unclear to us that we ought to expect a candidate’s site to be objective. Accordingly, people should evaluate the source when seeking information via the Internet just as they should evaluate the quality of other sources of information. The information available on the Internet tends not to be subjected to the same scrutiny and quality control accorded to other media. For these reasons, voters would be well-advised to visit both (or several) candidates’ sites, and neutral sites as well, to try to get a complete picture. Finally, voters must be careful not to be confused into thinking that a parody site is sponsored by a candidate (Warnick, 1998).

Thus, the world wide web has a variety of advantages and disadvantages for both candidates and voters. In our estimate, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages for each group. This new medium is already large, it is growing, and political candidates and voters are actively using it. It is imperative that we develop an understanding of this new campaign medium.


Hill and Hughes (1997) analyzed Internet usenet group discussions, concluding that "a large quantity of political discussion is taking place across the Internet" (p. 24). Warnick (1998) examined parody on the web, but did not analyze serious candidate web pages. Klotz (1997) reported that in 34 Senate races in 1996, 50 of 68 candidates had a web page. These pages tended to include a photo of the candidate and "links to a biography, issues section, and contact information" (p. 483). Klotz (1998) found that 94% of congressional web sites in 1996 were positive, 4% comparative, and 2% oppositional. Some web pages had no attacks: 47% of pages by challengers, 69% by incumbents and 77% by open-seat candidates were positive.

Margolis, Resnick and Tu (1997) analyzed presidential web sites in the 1996 primary campaign. They found that "Republican and Democratic party sites outnumbered all other American party sites" (p. 65). Clinton did not have an official candidate site until July 10. They described standard features of candidate web sites: signing a guest book, volunteering to help the campaign, fact-sheets and speeches, and links to political party organizations, groups, and people (p. 71). The Dole/Kemp web page included an interactive map that would reveal the names of Dole’s endorsers by state, a game involving trivia about Dole, screen-savers and images that could be down-loaded by visitors, audio clips. Not surprisingly, they found the sites from the Republican and Democratic Parties, and their candidates, to be more sophisticated than many of the minor party and minor candidate sites.

Selnow (1998) characterized presidential candidate sites in the 1996 general election campaign:

Sites posted biographical sketches and the obligatory photos, sometimes with family and flag, always with the candidate grinning or staring longingly into the future. They carried quotable quotes and provided links to speeches, policy positions, and flattering news stories. At the end it was their custom to offer e-mail links to the candidate. (pp. 81-82)

More detail on the 1996 campaign sites can be found in the study by Tedesco, Miller, and Spiker (1999), who reported that virtually every serious presidential contender’s campaign included a www home page in 1996" (p. 52). Every Republican web site, they noted, "provided information concerning how to make financial contributions, how to get on low-technology mailing lists, and some information regarding policy positions" (p. 52).

The Dole/Kemp site had six major links: "About the Team" consisted of biographical information on the candidates and their families, photos, and a link to Dole’s hometown, Russell Kansas; "The Dole Agenda" discussed 25 issues, made speeches news releases, and issue briefs available, and had information tailored to every state; "Get Involved" permitted visitors to volunteer to join the campaign, to subscribe to a mailing list, or to contribute money to the campaign; "Dole Interactive" consisted of trivia games, "On the Campaign Trail" reported on the candidate’s travels; and "News Room" dispensed speeches, press releases, policy memos, (Tedesco, Miller, & Spiker, 1999, pp. 57-58). This web page also included a recipe for pecan roll cookies and allowed visitors to calculate the tax cut they would receive if the Republican ticket wins the election.

The Clinton/Gore web page opened with eighteen links "ranging from a welcome message from Vice President Gore to a Volunteer of the Week link" and "The Presidential Debates, The Briefing Room, The Electoral College Computer, Bill Clinton and Al Gore, What You Can Do, 21st Century Express, the CG’96 Channel, and Search this Web site" (Tedesco, Miller, & Spiker, 1999, p. 59, emphasis original). The site emphasized information about issues, including links to the text of the presidential debates (with rebuttals to attacks made by Dole), briefing memos, and news releases. Text and audio versions of speeches by Bill Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Al Gore, and Tipper Gore were available. The web site included statements from Clinton supporters as well. The web page followed Clinton’s train journey to the Democratic National Convention. It allowed visitors to download a "grassroots action kit," to volunteer, to subscribe to a mailing list. A "Volunteer of the Week" was highlighted. The CG’96 Channel "delivered the latest news from the campaign in audio, video, and graphic files directly to desktop users" (Tedesco, Miller, & Spiker, 1999, p. 61).

Thus, campaign web sites, which are increasingly becoming de rigeur, have several elements in common. Most have biographical information; photographs of the candidate, often with family and/or supporters; issue information; speeches and press releases; and opportunities to volunteer, contribute money, and sign up for e-mail newsletters. Some had audio or video files and links to other web sites. Scholars have not examined candidate web pages, though, for web design features. Nor do we know whether presidential pre-primary sites in 1999 are following this lead.


We developed our criteria for evaluating Internet sites in two ways. First, we reviewed the literature on web site design and second, we analyzed the candidates’ pre-primary web sites for common topics. We have grouped our criteria into eight categories: identification, navigation, readability, irritability, information accessibility, interest level, interactivity, and adaptation to audience. We list all of the categories, with their subcategories, in Table 1. This table also displays the results of our analysis of the 1999 pre-primary presidential web pages.

Procedures for Investigating 2000 Pre-Primary Web Sites

First, we searched for candidate web sites in two ways. First, we used Metacrawler and searched using several terms ("presidential candidate," "presidential campaign") and using the names of potential candidates. We also found the Politics1 web page very useful ("Presidency 2000"). Second, we limited our sample in three ways. First, we decided to restrict this exploratory analysis to presidential candidates. While candidates for other offices besides the presidency are beginning to develop web sites, we decided to limit this investigation to the most visible (national) campaign. We suspect that local candidates will look to national candidates, which may make these national web sites into trend-setters. Second, we only included candidates who are currently identified as Republicans or Democrats. Although we believe an analysis of third party candidate web sites would prove interesting, we wanted to limit the scope of this investigation. Finally, we included the web sites of declared candidates and candidates with exploratory committees, but not sites designed to "draft" a candidate (or ascertain support). This procedure located web sites for twelve candidates: Lamar Alexander, Gary Bauer, Bill Bradley, Pat Buchanan, George W. Bush, Elizabeth Dole, Steve Forbes, John Kasich, Alan Keyes, John McCain, Dan Quayle, and Bob Smith. Because web sites are updated at varying intervals, we tried to take a "snapshot" of their web sites during a single week of time. Thus, the entire web site for each of these candidates was printed on March 10-16, 1999. In early May, we visited each candidate web page again to apply our evaluation criteria to each site (some candidates had noticeably revamped their web sites in the meantime). This sample will give us a good picture of presidential candidate web pages in the very early stages of the primary campaign.


The web page for Lamar Alexander takes up less than a full screen. At the top is a navigation bar. On the left of the bar is a fairly large button labeled, "Alexander/President" which is a link to his home page (this button is tan with "Alexander" in red and "President" in black letters). In the remainder (center and right) are seven smaller buttons (Issues 2000, Meet Governor Alexander, What’s New, Links, Building Momentum, Join the Team, Online Press Office) and one moderately sized button, Email@. The smaller buttons are burgundy with white letters, while the email button is tan with black letters. Clinking on one of the seven buttons adds another list of navigation buttons for that category (e.g., selecting Meet Governor Alexander brings up four new options: Biography, Alexander in ‘98, Album, and Honey’s Page).

Underneath the navigation bar, the screen is divided into three panels. The center panel is a color picture of Alexander. On either sides are panels with collages of monochromatic (blue tone) pictures. The left panel features Alexander and President Reagan and Alexander in his plaid shirt walking with his wife (Honey) and various children. The right panel has Lamar with author Alex Haley and Alexander speaking to a group of children. At the bottom of the photo collage, under his color photo and the right panel, is a long monochromatic photo of Alexander speaking in the rain. Superimposed over this is his signature and the slogan: "Bringing out the best in America." Above the left panel (and underneath the Alexander/President button) is a streaming message ("New Hampshire Headquarters Kickoff," "Weekly Radio Address," "click on each for details..."). At the bottom are text-only navigation buttons that correspond to the eight buttons at the top of the page and credits ("Paid for by Alexander for President Inc." and site design credits).

Gary Bauer’s opening page has a background which is dark blue with a blurry flag, with a circular photograph of the candidate in the upper middle of the screen (it includes his signature as well). The upper left reads "Bauer for President 2000 with another flag logo). In the upper right are four navigation buttons: Meet Gary Bauer, On the Issues, From the Trail, and Add Your Support. These are white stripes with a white stripe on the left end, and each one becomes highlighted when the cursor moves over it. In the lower third we find:

The bottom of the page announces that this is the page for Bauer for President, Inc., lists the campaigns postal address and telephone number, and gives design credit.

The web page for Bill Bradley has a picture of Bradley in what looks like a lapel button with "Bradley 2000" (Bradley in red, 2000 in white) over a flag background. Underneath are five navigation buttons: Get involved, About Bill Bradley, Campaign News, Press Center, and Home. The buttons and background are slate blue. The white letters on each button change to yellow when the cursor moves over a button. In the center of the page at the top is a logo with "Bill Bradley for President," a portion of a flag, and a picture of Bradley talking to two people. Underneath are two columns of text and photographs depicting the "Latest News." It also has links to video of Bradley. The bottom gives the campaign’s postal address and telephone number, with a statement that this is the "official web site of the Bill Bradley for President Committee" and a disclaimer about other Bradley-related sites.

Pat Buchanan’s web site has a narrow navigation bar at the top left. There are nine choices (Home, Help Pat, NewsRoom, Events, Pat Buchanan, Issues, Brigade, Brigade List, Contact) presented in dark blue buttons with white text. When the cursor moves over the a button, it becomes highlighted and yellow stars appear on it. Most of the screen has a white background. The top of Pat Buchanan’s site announces "Welcome to the official Patrick J. Buchanan for President Website!" in blue letters. When the cursor moves over this graphic, it changes to a larger version of Buchanan 2000 logo with the page’s url. Underneath is a logo with a large red B followed by "uchanan 2000" in blue on a white background. Below this on the left are four pictures: one of the White House at night (with white stars superimposed), one of Buchanan, one of Reagan and Buchanan, and one of Buchanan and Nixon. To the right we are told "Through triumph and tragedy...war and peace...he served the two most important Presidents of our time." His opening page is quite long, encompassing seven screens of information. Under the photographs are Internet poll information, bulletins (including links to video of his announcement speech and of his supporters). This is followed by a small version of the Buchanan2000 logo with a collage comprised of a picture of Buchanan, the White House, the Capitol Building, a flag, and an eagle, with another flag as backdrop. Under this are links to issue statements, "Pat Buchanan on... An America First Trade Policy, One Nation, A Trillion Dollar Tax Cut, A U.S. First Foreign Policy, Immigration Reform, Ending the Culture of Death, Dismantling the Federal Bureaucracy." Red arrows point to each topic. This is followed by a quotation from Buchanan, "I have never been afraid to speak my mind...I will never be afraid to lead." The next segment has a logo on the left ("News Updates from HQ" with a television, an old radio, and a microphone) and links to "Latest news...Pat’s Profile & Biography, Message from Pat Buchanan, From the Trail-Update! Upcoming Events" on the right. Each link has another red arrow. Under this is a logo (on the right this time) that says "Go Pat Go! With three photographs of him campaigning. On the left are three links to "Help Pat Win!...Internet Brigade, Volunteers and Support, Contact Headquarters." Each option again has a red arrow. Finally, at the bottom is the Buchanan2000 logo, with mailing address, website url, email address, and telephone number. When we checked again in July, there were 54 links on his page (some links are small diamonds which are not always obvious links).

George W. Bush’s web page has a logo at the top. On the left is a photograph of Governor and Mrs. Bush in the foreground, riding in a car, with a crowd of people and the Texas State Capital building in the background. In the middle we see "Governor George W. Bush Presidential Exploratory Committee, with "education," "values," "responsibility," and "prosperity" in the background. At the upper right are three navigation buttons: Home, News, and Contact. On the left (and underneath the logo) are more navigation buttons: Headlines, Meet Governor George W. Bush, Meet Laura Bush, Accomplishments, Speeches, Supporters, Polls, Volunteer, Contribute, and En Espanol. In the center are quotes from Bush with links to watch or read his Exploratory Committee announcement. On the right are three photographs of the Governor and Mrs. Bush at the Exploratory Committee announcement. The bottom of the left column notes that this is the official web site.

The web site for Elizabeth Dole begins with an introductory page. The background is dark blue, with light blues letters: "The United States of America deserves a government worthy of its people" (attributed to Elizabeth Dole). There is a photograph of Dole and a light blue arrow with white "Welcome!" Clicking on the center screen takes visitors to the main page, which has a logo at the top. On the left are six navigation buttons: Issues, Press Office, About Elizabeth, Get Our Newsletter, E-Dole Interactive, and Get Involved. The middle of the logo says "Elizabeth Dole 2000" and her photograph is on the right. There is a vertical dark blue line on the right side of these buttons which also frames the bottom of the logo (like a capital "L" with a longer horizontal than vertical bar). On the bottom, it fades to light blue which is the color of Dole’s blouse. We are told that this site is from the "Elizabeth Dole for President Exploratory Committee." On the left are three links ("Be a Volunteer" and "Make a Contribution" at the top and "Get Elizabeth’s FREE E-Mail Newsletter" at the bottom) and text from Dole’s speech:

President Reagan asked the telling question, "Are you better off today than you were four years ago?" Perhaps the question we should be asking today is: Are we BETTER? Are our families stronger? Are our public schools committed first to excellence? Are our children safe from drugs? Do we assume responsibility for our culture and our choices?

The background of the left portion is also dark blue. The rest of the page has a photograph of Dole’s statement announcing her exploratory committee with links to video and text of the speech. There are also five links: E-Dole Interactive: Customize this Site, Site Information, Be A Volunteer, Make a Contribution, and Get Elizabeth’s FREE E-Mail Newsletter."

Steve Forbes’ web page has pale green background a purple logo at the top. On the left is a picture that looks like a lapel button with Forbes’ picture and "HE WANTS YOU TO WIN, 2000" around the outside. The right portion of the logo is a bar with "Steve [in white] Forbes [light purple, with a dark purple star in the "o"] 2000 [in white] National Online Headquarters [light purple]." Underneath is a red stripe that declares again in white letters, "HE WANTS YOU TO WIN." Underneath (the bottom of the logo) is a rather faint flag with blue (rather than red) stripes. The rest of the page is divided into three parts. The left column is a navigation bar with five choices: Your Personal Control Panel, America’s Moral Compass, Freedom’s Passport, The Steve Forbes Policy Agenda, What Others are Saying, Site Search, Online Resources. At the bottom of this column is the mailing address and telephone number. On the left is another navigation bar, with these choices: e-Precinct Leader Login, Contribute, Volunteer, Lead and e-Precinct, Get Updates, Online Campaign Kit, Voter Registration Information, and Online Resources. At the top of the middle column are four more navigation buttons: Bio, Schedule, Releases, and Speeches. A news story, a photograph of the candidate, and links to the full story and more stories are underneath the buttons. There are two more links at the bottom of the center column: Online Resources and News Media Credentials. The bottom of the page announces that it was "Paid for by Forbes 2000, Inc.," that contributions are not tax deductible, and gives a e-mail link to the webmaster. When we checked this page in July there were 45 links on this page.

Al Gore’s web page has a white background (blue letters and red headlines) with six light blue navigation buttons at the top: Get Involved, My Family, Tipper (apparently not part of his family), Issues & News, Speeches, Town Hall. Below this is a dark blue banner with a logo (Gore 2000, with a moving star) on the left and a color photograph of Gore speaking with children, with a photograph of the world on the wall behind them. Underneath the banner are two columns. The left (wider) column begins with his url ( and the date. News is reported ("Nebraska Leaders endorse Al Gore," "Fighting Cancer for America’s Families"). This is followed by a solicitation for contributions and a map (outline of states) with the stops on "Al Gore’s 2000 Presidential Announcement Tour" marked. We are told that he announced his candidacy on June 16 in Carthage, TN, and subsequent stops (with hot links to more information). Near the bottom are the seven points of "Al Gore’s Agenda for America in the 21st Century" (each with links to more information):

The last part of the left column are a statement that this site is paid for by Gore 2000, Inc., a link to Gore’s privacy policy, address and phone number, and a statement that contributions are not tax deductible. The right (narrower) column has a blue background with white letters (and yellow headlines) welcomes visitors at the top and invites visitors to read his welcome statement. The web page is available En Espanol. This is followed by a link to an FEC press release. Next we find a CGI script for signing up for campaign updates via email. There are several links: the July update; videos of the campaign announcement, Gephardt’s endorsement, and Gore’s biography; Iowa and New Hampshire; Women for Gore; a Photo Gallery; a page for kids; and a site map. At the bottom are the same six navigation buttons found at the top, in text versions.

The web page for John Kasich was divided into two parts. The top half consisted of twelve squares. The top left square, in red, had five navigation buttons: About John, What’s Going On, Get Involved, Who’s Your Hero, and Contact Us. His photograph was next, followed by a blue square with "John Kasich 2000" in white and "Get Involved!" in red. The last (far right) square in the top row was a billowing flag. The other squares had pictures of various people including two pictures at bowling alleys, a baseball team, and a woman who looked like a mother with two apple pies. The lower half of the opening page had the five navigation buttons repeated in text. Then there was a message welcoming visitors to the K2K web page with statements about his philosophy (e.g., "K2K is about changing America. It’s about empowering people like you"). The bottom of the page had two statements: "K2K Get Involved!" (blue letters) over "Paid for by Kasich 2000" (red letters).

Alan Keyes’ web site had a logo at the top. On the left was a blue outline of the United States with Keyes in white. It listed his url and "Keyes 2000" appeared in red letters with a shadow effect. On the right was five navigation buttons: Who is Alan Keyes, Message from Alan, Need More Info, Support Keyes2000, and Activist Toolbox. Below this were fifteen links: about, activist toolbox, discussion, elections, feedback, friends, issues, join, petition, polls, schedule, speeches, sate & local, transcripts, and weekly update. Keyes’ photo then appeared on the right, with the following text appeared in red letters "From the Heart of America - Keyes 2000." This was followed by telephone numbers in blue. There was a logo at the bottom ("KEYES" in solid blue, "2000" in outline blue, and a red outline star), text declaring that this is the official website for the Keyes exploratory committee, a red outline of the United States with Keyes, and a visit counter. In between these were eight sections (we note the number of links in each section) identified with a blue stripe with four stars on the left: Elections & Electability (4), Activism & Activities (11), Articles & Publications (4), Speeches & Statements (12), Interviews & Appearances (7), Alan Keys Show Transcripts (9), News & Information (9), Links & Resources (5). Thus, including navigation buttons, his opening page contained eighty-three links

John McCain’s page has a dark blue background (it has very narrow white horizontal lines). On the left is a picture of McCain in front of a flag. In the center is a logo with a flag and McCain (in white letters) 2000 (red numbers). Below this was a letter "from the desk of John McCain." On the left was a navigation bar with thirteen choices: Contact, Home, John McCain Story, Press Shop, Campaign Calendar, Campaign Trail, John McCain on the Issues, Campaign Store, Contribute, Volunteer, Resources & Links, and Site Map. On the right are three pictures with outlines or frames that look like postage stamps: McCain working at a desk, visiting a cemetery, and with children. After his letter there is a logo with a blue background, a flag, "McCain" in white, "2000" in red, and a picture of McCain that looks like a stamp.

The web site for Dan Quayle has a frame at the left comprising about one-third of the page. At the top of this frame is a logo with a flag and Quayle (in blue) 2000 (in red) on white background with seven blue stars around the Q in Quayle. Below this is a red navigation bar with a red background (white letters). The top two choices are Volunteer and Contribute. Underneath this are three choices under the heading "About Dan Quayle": Contact Quayle 2000, Dan Quayle’s Profile, and Clips & Quotes. "ON THE ISSUES" contains four options: Stronger Families, Lower Taxes, Less Government, and A Secure America. "MEDIA ACCESS" includes four links: Top Story, Press Releases, Speeches & Op-Eds, and Multimedia. At the bottom are two other links: Campaign Finance and Resource Links.

The rest of the page (center and right) begins with a heading (white background): "Left out of the political process? SEND A MESSAGE TO THE ESTABLISHMENT INSIDERS [blue letters], JOIN DAN QUAYLE’S 21st CENTURY CLUB (Click Here) [red letters]." Beneath this is a Headline with a link to the story ("QUAYLE OFFERS REFORMS TO ALLOW ONE PARENT TO REMAIN WITH CHILDREN"). This part of the screen is then divided into three columns. The first (left) begins with a color photograph of Quayle, followed by a the beginning of a story: "Quayle offers reforms to allow one parent to remain with children" followed by the first paragraph and a link to the remainder of the story [a more recent version of his web page offered this story but with a different main headline at the top]. The center column, with a light blue background (the columns on each side have white backgrounds) concerns "UPCOMING EVENTS" (white letters in a red box, with a dark blue box above it at the very top of the column and three white stars overlapping these two boxes). Underneath is an announcement for one upcoming event (Quayle in Iowa for Independence Day) and a link to an Event Calendar. The right most column begins with a photograph of Quayle with his family and three quotations about his philosophy, ending with a link to more information. At the bottom of the page are text links that are virtually the same as the navigation bar (contribute and volunteer are combined) and the Quayle 2000 logo with the campaigns postal address.

Bob Smith’s web site has a dark blue background. His slogan, "Chart the Right Course for America," appears at the top. Underneath this are links to watch or read his speech at the National Press Club. Below this is "Bob Smith for President" with the date of its last update. His page is divided into three columns. There are six navigation buttons on the left -- Biography, On the Issues, In the News, Upcoming Events, Media Appearances, and Speeches -- with a photograph of Smith with a child below that, followed by a link to join the campaign, and another photograph of Smith in a crowd. Underneath this picture is a call to "Show Your Support in these on-line polls" with links to five Internet preference polls. A photograph of a woman holding a "MASS FOR BOB" sign is at the bottom. The bottom noted that this was the web page for "Bob Smith for President," gave a postal address, a telephone number, and an email address.

The center column presents a color photograph of Smith at the wheel of a sailing ship. Next, it reports on his recent New Hampshire speech. Underneath, text from his speech scrolls. This is followed by an entreaty to "Purchase Stock in America’s Future," with a drawing of a stock certificate, which is Smith’s version of campaign fund-raising. Below this is the declaration that "This campaign will be conducted on Main Street, not Wall Street," followed by an American Express icon for contributions (stock purchases). Then we find out "What America is saying about Bob Smith" and another window for scrolling text.

The third column begins with an excerpt from an article in The Manchester Union Leader about how "Bob Smith steals show at library fund event." The first two paragraphs are presented with a link to the remainder of the article. This is followed by a story from the Roll Call News Scoop, "Gun Bill Blocked by Smith: Senator Won’t Budge Over Conference." Again the beginning of the article is listed with a link to the rest. Below this is an essay attacking McCain’s campaign finance reform plans as unconstitutional. This column ends with another story from The Orlando Sentinel, "Bob Smith stands tall -- in more ways than just the obvious. The bottom of the page (full width) lists the campaign’s postal address, telephone number, and email address.

Most of the candidates’ web sites included a page with links to candidate statements or position papers on various issues. Alexander began with three "core areas" of issues: fixing public education, improving family incomes by lowering taxes and strengthening social security, and strengthening national defense. Then he listed links to statements on eleven issues: education, parents raising children, taxes, national defense, the environment, national unity, retirement security, health care, high tech, drug abuse, and gun control. Buchanan listed several topics for position papers: an America first trade policy, a U.S. first foreign policy, one nation (racial equality), immigration reform, a trillion dollar tax cut, ending the culture of death (abortion), dismantling the federal bureaucracy. He also offered statements on these issues: foreign policy; trade, jobs, and our economy; and the culture war. Forbes’ page had links to statements on ten topics: budget, flat tax, global economic crisis, regulation, social security, taxes, technology/Internet, year 2000 computer crisis, campaign finance reform, civil rights, crime, education, health care, term limits, U.S. not U.N. foreign policy, abortion, abstinence, assisted suicide, drugs, marriage, and spiritual awakening. Gore’s site had links to statements on twelve issues: economy, reinventing government, education and lifelong learning, environment, fighting crime, health care, stronger families, technology & science, building livable communities, foreign policy & national defense, and Americans with disabilities. The web page for Keyes provided links to statements on ten issues: abortion & euthanasia, affirmative action, homosexual rights, religion/school prayer, school choice, second amendment rights, sex education, taxes & government spending, U.N., and welfare/family disintegration. Quayle’s page did not have a separate link to an "issues" page, but listed these issues on his home page: stronger families, lower taxes, less government, and more secure America.

Dole had one page with headings and quotes from her on these topics: roll back the bureaucracy: defend the 10th amendment, quality education, cut the tax burden, restoring America’s defense capability, renew the fight against drugs, restore integrity in our government. Smith also had a page with paragraphs on these eleven topics: taxes, education, judicial activism, national defense, pro-life, right-to-work, second amendment rights, flag burning, government ethics, immigration, national sovereignty. Kasich and McCain devoted a page to a narrative about issues, but there were no links to specific pages or even headings to identify what they believed were the most important issue topics. Bush and Bradley did have sections on issues.


Based on our analysis, represented in Table 1, we divided candidate web sites into four groups. Candidates in the least effective group were Bush and Smith. Bush was particularly low on information breadth and depth, and somewhat low on interest and interactivity. Smith was low on readibility, information access, and information breadth and depth.

The next highest group consisted of Keyes, Kasich, Buchanan, and Bauer. Keyes’ readibility was low. We considered his opening page to be a horrible example of information overload (his site later improved dramatically). Kasich was rated somewhat low on navigation and moderate on information breadth and depth. Buchanan was rated moderately low on interest and interactivity, and on information breadth and depth. Bauer was rated moderately on interactivity and on information breadth and depth.

The second highest group included Bradley, Quayle, Forbes, McCain, and Dole. Bradley was rated high on navigation and interactivity. Quayle did well on navigation and information breadth and depth. Forbes was fairly high on navigation, information breadth and depth, and interactivity. McCain scored well on navigation and information breadth and depth. Dole placed well on navigation and interactivity.

The highest group included Alexander and Gore. Alexander rated highly on navitation and information breadth and depth. Gore placed well on navigation, interest, and interactivity.


We are convinced that political web pages are already an important component of the campaign, and destined to increase in importance as access to the web and technology improves -- and as the campaigns learn how to harness the power of the internet to reach voters with their messages. The issue topics that we address must vary as the public opinion changes. Our categories probably could be refined. We only provide one snapshot, but the web, and the campaign pages that it contains, are continually evolving. However, we are adding to our knowledge of this new medium of communication. We also believe that some of our principles could be applied to non-political webpages.


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Candidate Web Addresses (Active March 1999)

Lamar Alexander:

Gary Bauer:

Bill Bradley:

Pat Buchanan:

George W. Bush:

Elizabeth Dole:

Steve Forbes:

Al Gore:

John Kasich:

Alan Keyes:

John McCain:

Dan Quayle:

Bob Smith: