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Internet Holds Promise for Politics

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RALEIGH — President Clinton's visit to Raleigh is costly and involves lots of support people, planes, helicopters and cars. However, there is a move by politicians to make more use of information technology.

The World Wide Web is quickly becoming home to candidates, incumbents and parties. But as WRAL'sTom Lawrencediscovered, there are also limitations to what the Web has to offer.

Internet use is growing quickly, but there are still far more television sets in homes than computers.

There's no doubt politicians see the Web as another tool to get their points across. However, promotion of a candidate's use of the Net could be a campaign negative.

N.C. State political scientist Andy Taylor follows and studies political campaigns. He says politics has not taken off like book selling or making airline reservations. But he says the Internet holds promise for politics.

"Of course on the Web you can give a great amount of in-depth detail about a candidate, a party's position on particular issues."

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Edwards is using the Web as a campaign tool. You can subscribe to e-mail from his campaign and read his positions on issues.

The same is true for incumbent Senator Lauch Faircloth. The senator posts information about what he's working on in Washington.

President Clinton boasts the White House as his Internet address. It's a wonderful site with lots of information for everyone.

But Taylor warns there can be a downside to the Internet. Politicians and parties don't want to be accused of appealing only to the Interet savvy.

"It's predominately male," Taylor said. "More women are using the Web now, but it's predominantly male, it's predominantly white and it's predominately a middle class thing. So if you want to reach those voters, it make a lot of sense."

The danger is, many voters don't have computers and political parties want a more universal appeal. So it could be years before the Internet makes a big impact on campaigns or voters.