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The Internet and American Political Campaigns

David Karpf

David Karpf is an Assistant Professor in the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs. He can be reached at

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From the journal The Forum


This article provides an overview of major research findings regarding the Internet and American political campaigns. This is still a nascent subfield, but the research community has come to general agreement on five key points: (1) at the mass behavioral level, the Internet has not changed fundamental participatory inequalities; (2) we have seen an increase in small-donor activity, and these donations tend to flow toward polarizing candidates; (3) for political campaign operations, “mundane mobilization tools” carry the largest impacts; (4) with political campaigns, the new focus on data analytics and the “culture of testing” is substantially changing resource expenditures and work routines; and (5) there is currently a clear partisan divide between how Democrats and Republicans employ digital technology for campaigning. The article also discusses the methodological challenges that separate Internet-related research from many of the more established fields of campaign finance-related research. It concludes by posing a set of research questions for the 2014 and 2016 election cycles which will likely prove fruitful.

Corresponding author: David Karpf, George Washington University, School of Media and Public Affairs, Washington, DC, USA, e-mail:

About the author

David Karpf

David Karpf is an Assistant Professor in the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs. He can be reached at .

  1. 1

    See Skocpol and Williamson (2012) for a discussion of the various overlapping forms of tea party organization.

  2. 2

    See Cohen et al. 2009; Masket 2011.

  3. 3

    This section offers an abridged version of the methodological argument I make in “Social Science Research Methods in Internet Time” (Karpf 2012b).


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Published Online: 2013-10-18
Published in Print: 2013-10-01

©2013 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston

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