Like many political action organizations, the conservative-leaning Christian Coalition ( tagline: Defending America’s Godly Heritage!) has a Twitter presence. With almost 5,000 Twitter followers and steady updates, the Christian Coalition will no doubt be heard in the Twitterverse and beyond.
But when one Tweets to the masses, not every reader will comprise your typical audience. When This Recording and Tumblr blogger Tyler Coates got wind of a survey the conservative organization posted to their website, he (and quite a few re-tweeters) started passing it around.
While people of all political stripes identify as Christian, Tyler (a self-identified liberal and a gay man) and his Twitter followers are probably not the anti-gay, anti-choice Christian Coalition’s intended audience.
So is posting the survey – which is already being filled out by would-be values voting saboteurs, and which Tyler said he found from a chain work e-mail – a Twitter fail?
“I don’t think it’s really stupid for them to post [the survey] online, because I think they assume that those not in their demographic will keep up with their website and news to see it was there,” said Tyler via IM. (Full disclosure: Tyler is a friend of mine.)
“But I do think it’s important that people outside the demographic fill out the survey, too, because it’s vital to see ALL Americans’ values,” adds Coates, who says he identifies as liberal.
There is a precedent online for trolling a political rival’s media message. When Focus on the Family promised free promotional material to followers, The Stranger columnist Noel Black wrote a widely-reblogged column encouraging anti-Family readers to sign up for material and deprive the organization of some cheddar. And the Free Republic, a well-known far-right message board, kept Ron Paul at the top of an ABC News poll of potential presidential candidates.
With avenues like Twitter and the blogosphere, it’s easier than ever for political action groups to get immediate political feedback. And it’s even easier for survey participants far outside of the survey’s purported demographic to game the system.
But even if the Christian Coalition got the results they wanted, who would trust the results? On the wild, woolly Internet, is such open-ended canvassing really a way to stay on media message?
Jessica Gold Haralson is a writer and a gamer who writes about various topics, including entertainment, pop culture, and new media. She probably spends more time than is necessary playing World of Warcraft. You can see more of her writing on her Tumblr here.