Lawmakers Benefit From Online Town Hall Meetings

    October 26, 2009

Online town hall meetings with a member of congress has significant and positive impact on a voter’s view of a lawmaker and increases the likelihood that they will become more politically engaged, according to research form the Congressional Management Foundation.

"Conducting online meetings with constituents offers Member of Congress a flexible tool for communication in addition to the traditional in-person meetings, tele-townhalls and newsletters," said Beverly Bell, Executive Director of the Congressional Management Foundation.
"Our research shows that people like hearing from – and feeling heard by – their representatives in all formats, including online."

Lawmakers who held an online town hall meeting experienced an average approval rating jump of 18 points. There were similar increases in trust and perceptions of personal qualities such as hardworking and accessible. The meetings also increased voter’s approval of the lawmaker’s position on the issue discussed.

More than half (56%) of voters who participated in online town hall meetings were more likely to vote for the lawmaker, with a particularly dramatic impact on swing voters.

Other highlights include:

The sessions were extremely popular with constituents. A remarkable 96% of participants said they would like to be included in similar events in the future.

The town hall meetings attracted a diverse array of people. These sessions were more likely than traditional venues to attract people from demographics not traditionally engaged in politics and people frustrated with the political system.

The discussions in the town hall meetings were of high quality. By standards of deliberative quality (use of accurate facts to support arguments, respect for alternative points of view, etc.) the discussions were of a very high quality.

"Members of Congress are always looking for ways to stay connected back home. It only makes sense that they would turn to the Internet for its almost limitless networking capabilities, the same way other people are using it to stay in touch with far-flung friends and family," said Bell.

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