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Bentley Study Analyzes e-Campaign for 2004 Presidential Elections

600 people in 15 states surveyed

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WALTHAM, Mass. - A recent Bentley College study, "The e-Campaign for Presidential Election 2004," provides the first systematic analysis of who makes up Howard Dean's presidential campaign grassroots supporters and what draws them to the Meetup phenomenon. The study, conducted by Professor of Government Christine B. Williams with support from Jesse Gordon via the Dean volunteer network, surveyed 600 participants from 15 states who attended the October 2003 Meetup. A survey of Wesley Clark campaign Meetups is anticipated for November.

According to Professor Williams, the Dean campaign has figured out how to harness the Internet in service of the two most important goals in the run up to the primaries- raising money and mobilizing their base.

"What's most interesting is Meetup's staying power," says Williams. "These are satisfied, repeat customers."

The Bentley study's findings about the Meetup attendees include:

  • Demographically, they are mostly Caucasian, middle aged, middle income professionals.
  • They see themselves as strong Democrats, either liberal or progressive in their ideology, who voted for Al Gore in 2000.
  • They had favorable views of Bill Bradley, and liked John McCain and Ralph Nader more than Ross Perot.
  • They are politically active. Most vote in every election. About half have donated money as well as volunteer time to multiple candidates in several elections.
  • They follow the news seven days a week in every medium: newspapers, television, radio and the Internet. Almost all report that they use the Internet several times a day.

"Democratic party members think that Dean supporters come from outside the party," says Gordon. "Now we can show them that their perception is incorrect. Dean supporters are good Democrats who vote, donate, and volunteer. We're not an isolated phenomenon."

Another key in mobilizing this constituency is The Dean for America web site. The study finds:

  • The Dean site was how the largest number found out about their first Meetup and how they found out about this one.
  • For almost one-third, this is their first Meetup. About one-fifth have attended more than three Meetups.
  • About half who attended a Meetup then became involved in the Dean campaign, while the other half was already involved and then decided to attend a Meetup. Most are more involved in the campaign and more supportive of Howard Dean as a result of their Meetup experience.

A 62 year-old, married female from the Fort Lauderdale, FL venue likes "getting the latest information, resources, opportunities for involvement, exchange of ideas." A 39 year-old male attending the Indianapolis venue says simply, "I am deciding which Democratic candidate to support in the primary."

According to Bentley Associate Professor of Marketing Bruce Weinberg, a consultant on the study, Meetup thrives through a synergistic combination of word of web and word of mouth.

"Just as eBay became 'the' place to go for online product exchange, Meetup is becoming 'the' online place to go for face-to-face social exchange," he notes.

A 26 year-old, single male attending the New York City venue comments that "Meetup gets habitually non-political people (like me) politically active." A 29 year-old, single woman at the Denver Meetup finds it "interesting to see other people supporting Dean - I feel like I'm part of a group of people who care."

This arena is not new to Williams. She coauthored the Bentley research study, "The 2000 e-Campaign for Senate." Published in the Fall 2002 issue of the Journal of Political Marketing, the study examined the marriage of politics and marketing to computer technology.

Bentley is a business university. Focused on education and research in business and related professions, Bentley blends the breadth and technological strength of a large university with the values and student orientation of a small college. An undergraduate education combines business study with a strong foundation in the arts and sciences. A broad array of Information Age MBA, Master of Science, and certificate programs at the McCallum Graduate School emphasize the impact of technology on business practice. Enrolling approximately 3,800 full-time undergraduate, 490 adult part-time undergraduate, and 1,300 graduate students, Bentley is located in Waltham, Massachusetts, 10 miles west of Boston, and online at


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Mike Bellwin
Bentley College
(781) 891-2277


Oct 28, 2003

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