Monthly Archives: December 2008

Social scientist help needed for ‘commuting together’ proposal

(photo by cantmilla)

(photo by cantmilla)

James H. Morris, Professor of the Practice of Software and Dean, Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley is working on a ridesharing proposal to stop ‘driving alone’.  His web-based proposal aims to harness all available technology and reduce global warming and increase social capital built up while commuting.  If successful, it would reduce solo commuting by 50%.

Social scientists reading this blog are encouraged to be in touch with James Morris about SafeRide.  His e-mail is jim DOT morris AT sv DOT cmu DOT edu to offer their pro bono help on evaluating the idea from a sociological or cultural perspective.

Interesting series of articles on trust

(photo by A Stump)

(photo by A Stump)

In the current issue of “Greater Good” magazine, Pamela Paxton (sociology, Ohio State) and Jeremy Adam Smith have a cover story “America’s Trust Fall” about the declines over the last generation in social trust and trust in American institutions.  It’s a good overview of this topic.

But the issue also addresses other related issues of trust.

1.In Faces We Trust describes research of Alexander Todorov (psychology, Princeton) and colleagues showing how important gut instincts our to our trust judgments and to political decisions.

In one 2006 experiment, they gave participants small amounts of time—100 milliseconds, 500 milliseconds, and 1 second—to judge if a face was trustworthy. The researchers discovered that decisions made after 100 milliseconds were highly consistent with decisions made with longer time constraints, suggesting that …beyond those first 100 milliseconds, additional time for reflection doesn’t appear to change first impressions….

Follow-up research in 2007 tested whether these gut reactions had implications for politics.  They showed experimental participants pictures of the winner and runner-up of various Senate and gubernatorial races that participants were unfamiliar with and asked, “Who is more competent?”

After only 100 milliseconds of exposure to the faces, participants chose the winning candidate for about 72 percent of the Senate races and 69 percent of the gubernatorial races. In other words, gut instincts were highly consistent with actual votes cast after many months of supposedly rational deliberation.

Similarly, a 2006 experiment by economists Daniel Benjamin and Jesse Shapiro revealed that people were remarkably able to determine the election outcome from watching silent 10-second clips of political debates.   Ironically, experimental subjects were less likely to be able to predict the election outcome if they listened to the sound since it seemed to interfere with their gut instincts.

Researchers posit that these gut reactions and “thin slices” of information have deep evolutionary roots. “Neuroimaging studies reveal that trust evaluations involve the amygdala, a brain region responsible for tracking potential harm—something that probably came in handy on the prehistoric African savanna, where judging trustworthiness in a split second could well mean the difference between life and death.”

While these snap judgments appear to anchor our initial decision, experiments have shown that we engage in a series of internal subconscious arguments between rational thought and these gut feelings and that subsequent data can overcome our initial biases.

2. Brain Trust discusses what researchers know about the trust process from monitoring our brains.  They discuss experiments that show that we often do not behave in self-maximizing ways out of a sense of trust or fairness.

“Familiarity breeds trust—players tend to trust each other more with each new game. So does introducing punishments for untrustworthy behavior, or even just reminding players of their obligations to each other.”

“These studies have demonstrated the strength of human trust, and that humans are truly worthy of this trust from one another. They have also improved our understanding of the social factors that determine trust. But two important questions remain: Is trust truly a biologically based part of human nature, and if so, what is it in the brain that makes humans trust each other?”

The article discusses evidence that oxyocin “greases the wheels of trust” but only when humans are facing other humans, not when they are playing against computers.

3. In Can I Trust You? psychologist Paul Ekman (a pioneer in determining who is lying from facial cues) converses with his daughter Eve. He discusses how an expert on lying, deception, and truthfulness tries to foster trust and trustworthiness in his daughter, why it is important, and what it takes.

He notes that he tried to avoid putting her in a position where she would lie, but instead asked leading questions encouraging her to disclose (e.g., “”Is there something on your mind? Is there something you want to talk about?” or “What happened the other night? I heard you come in late.”)

He notes the difficult role of a parent:

[Y]ou have to keep moving backwards. When parents start out, they are completely responsible for their child, who is totally helpless. As that child grows, you have to roll back, you have to grant control; otherwise, your child can’t grow. You have to be able to live with the fact that as you grant the child more autonomy, they will get into all sorts of trouble. But you ultimately have to leave it up to them.

He notes the importance of not simply trying to rely on the authority inherent in the parental role, but explaining the basis for actions and appealing to higher moral principles.  And he urges parents to avoid “destructive compassion”: when you are so worried about your child that you over–control them and damage them.  He tried to set an example by never lying in his own life, and tried to make clear that disclosure about trouble that the kids got into was part of their responsibility.  Making obligations clear was important.  His wisdom is summarized in Why Kids Lie: How Parents Can Encourage Truthfulness.

4. Psychologist Joshua Coleman describes how to reinstill trust in romantic relationships of couples who have had a falling out in Surviving Betrayal.

Interesting links: Obama 2.0, craigslist for service, trust and voter turnout

(photo by remolacha)

(photo by remolacha)

I previously posted on how the economy depends so heavily on our trust.  Slate’s Anne Applebaum has a recent post on how the fraud of Bernard Madoff threatens to return us more to the creaky workings of the Polish economy c. 1990.

It is amazing the range of sophisticated and prominent investors brought down by Madoff’s $50 billion Ponzi scheme, including Stephen Spielberg, Dreamwork’s Jeffrey Katzenberg, ex-Sen. Frank Lautenberg, Elie Wiesel, Mort Zuckerman, and $3 billion invested by the Spanish bank Santander.

Obama 2.0: I was at an interesting roundtable yesterday on the Internet and Democracy where many in the group felt that as dramatic a role that the Internet played in the election of Obama, the potential for the Obama administration to take us to an entirely new level of citizen participation in governance, transparency and accountability is much higher.  One of the participants was Beth Noveck, pioneer of the innovative Peer-to-Patent system, who is on the Technology, Innovation and Government Reform policy working group helping to advise Obama on transparency and accountability.

- TechPresident also had this interesting post on the reports from the PA Field Director for Obama (Paulette Aniskoff) on feedback that the Obama campaign was hearing from their volunteer troops.

Craigslist for Service:  The Obama campaign has been advocating during the campaign that we need a craigslist for service and it is even in the Obama platform.  Craig Newmark, self-described customer service representative, and founder of craigslist partly says we have it already and it’s called VolunteerMatch, but he also talks about his vision of other ways people can serve.

Voter Turnout:  I previously posted updated turnout figures here, but Michael McDonald of GMU has slightly revised upward his turnout estimate to 61.6% to 131 million.  This still makes it the highest for 40 years, since 1968.   McDonald notes that these “preliminary” numbers could creep slightly higher but are essentially settled.  [See McDonald's blog post here.]  Curtis Gans, the other major scholar in this field, has not revised his earlier estimates, and McDonald continues to believe that 2008 represented more of an increase in voter turnout than Gans.  By Spring we’ll get Americans’ self-reports of voting on the CPS November supplement.  The Associated Press reports that early voting hit a new high, with about 41 million people, or over 31%, voting before Election Day (vs. 22% in 2004). Voter turnout increased substantially in newly competitive states like Virginia, Indiana and North Carolina, which all went for Obama for the first time in decades and turnout also rose in Republican states with large black populations, such as Mississippi, South Carolina and Georgia.  North Carolina saw the biggest increase in turnout, rising from 57.8% in 2004 to 65.8% in 2008, driven by a large African American population, and competitive elections at the gubernatorial, Senatorial and presidential levels.

Dentyne hopes social capital message sticks

Dentyne’s latest commercial “Make Face Time” strives to associate gum chewing with connections with friends.  While it’s hard to see the connection (other than the appeal of fresh-smelling breath), their commercial is a nice wry twist on the limits of online connections and the strength of face-to-face connections.  They refer to a friend whispering to another in a pool as “voicemail” and a couple kissing as a real “instant message!.”  [It also has nice background music of Coconut Records, the moonlighting project of actor Jason Schwartzman, singing "Summer Day".]

Dentyne’s web campaign also gives you 3:00 on their website and then tells you to go out and do something.  And on the website you can say goodbye to emoticons (in the Smiley Chamber of Doom), go to the Face Time Finder (to find good local places to connect with others), and make a “Face Time Request” to someone you want to see in person.  While we applaud Dentyne’s connection sentiment, is the Internet really required for this?  How about a phone call? And do we really want to give Dentyne access to some information about our personal networks?

Interesting Obama links

First, TechPresident had several interesting blog posts on the efforts of the Obama campaign to figure out what to do with their 13 million person e-mail list and how to use this to spark greater civic engagement. See “The Other Transition: Whither Obama’s Movement?“, Report from Chicago: We’re Making This Up As We Go Along, and More Hints from Chicago on Obama for America 2. And see Gene Koo’s liveblogging of Marshall Ganz’s comments on the Obama campaign’s engagement strategy (part1) and part2, and Micah’s distillation of these remarks.

'Si se puede' in Guatemlan highlands (photo by Xeni Jardin)

'Si se puede' in Guatemalan highlands (photo by Xeni Jardin)

Second, Xeni Jardin, has an an interesting post in GOOD magazine on “Si Se Puedo” (Yes We Can): how Obama’s election has inspired hope even in a dirt poor, remote village in the Guatemalan highlands .  Here is a brief except:

The village where we spend most of our time is high in the altiplano, above Lake Atitlán, in the Sololá area. There are no black people here. Nor are there white people, other than occasional missionaries and Peace Corps workers. In fact, I don’t think there are really any ladinos (the Guatemalan term for people who consider themselves more Spanish than Indian) here. There are only K’iche Mayan people here.

They are extremely poor. Hunger and malnutrition are widespread. So are diseases caused by unclean water. Often, moms cannot afford the most basic medical care for sick kids, and the kids die of completely preventable or curable diseases. Many—maybe even most—of the adult men leave to seek work in the United States. Many of them die along the way.

So, despite many years visiting their homes and sharing their difficult life experiences, we were surprised by their reaction to the Obama election. It was of great symbolic importance. That sudden jolt of aspiration felt around the world? It struck here. Hard. It meant hope. It meant a renewed belief in change, for a people who have survived natural disasters, racism, and 36 years of civil war that many describe as the Mayan genocide. If a black man can enter the Casa Blanca, they are saying, maybe a Mayan person can one day become president of Guatemala. Maybe we will live to see a true democracy here, the thinking goes—a government that represents the rights of Guatemala’s First People, instead of representing their destruction.

There are no landline phones in this village. Some heads of households have cellphones (the inexpensive kind, called “frijoles,” because they’re cheap and bean-shaped), but not everyone has even this basic connectivity. Don Victoriano, the local leader of the international nonprofit…[sent this e-mail from the nearest internet cafe]:

“We are preoccupied with concern over the elections in your country. We are praying for you, so that your country doesn’t suffer such a horrible depresiòn caused by bad governments. We hope in Ajaw [the Mayan creator god] that Obama wins. I don’t know how you feel, but that’s how we feel.”

Here is the full post, “In the Highlands, Hope“.

The economy, the holidays, giving and social capital

Give reconciliation a chance  (photo by araleya)

Give reconciliation a chance (photo by araleya)

I heard recently of one school teacher reminding children that many parents are currently out of work.  The teacher asked her pupils to think of one gift that they got that they never used and one gift that they could give or ask for that doesn’t require any money. Then she asked the students to think about the economy and the fact that it is often hard to know whether parents are in good or bad financial shape in forming their holiday “wish lists.”  I learned of a mother that sometimes gives her children a birthday or Christmas “get out of jail card”.  It’s a card that has no expiration date and can be used once by her children to escape punishment/consequences on “non-federal offenses.”

I welcome thoughts from readers of “social-capital friendly” ideas for these financially stressed holidays.  Here are some starter ideas:

- Making gifts with others to share

- Giving Circles: where each person contributes a small amount of money and the group decides how to collectively use the money for good.

- Group volunteering projects for others inside or outside your community.

- Potluck holiday parties

- Finding an opportunity to do something nice to former friends with whom you have had a falling out or people with whom you are not now on speaking terms.  Give reconciliation a chance.

- And it’s not about finding financial alternatives to giving, but Changing the Present has a nice list of gifts one can give to help others.

Note: Caribbean Girl has a nice simpatico post talking about how “the long walk” is a more important part of holiday gift-giving than money.  Excerpts of her post (of relevance regardless of one’s religious beliefs):

An African boy listened carefully as his teacher explained why Christians give presents to each other on Christmas day. “The gift is an expression of our joy over the birth of Jesus and our friendship for each other,” she said.

When Christmas day came, the boy brought to the teacher a seashell of lustrous beauty. “Where did you ever find such a beautiful shell?” the teacher asked as she gently fingered the gift.

The youth told her there was only one spot where such extraordinary shells could be found…a certain bay several miles away. [T]he teacher was left speechless.

“Why…why, it’s gorgeous…wonderful, but you shouldn’t have gone all that way to get a gift for me.”

His eyes brightening, the boy answered, “Long walk part of gift.”…

While they [the magic] gave gold, frankincense, and myrrh…, they also gave another gift…a long walk. We don’t know how far the magi traveled, but we do know it took months, perhaps years, for them to reach their destination. Their long walk was part of the gift.

We ought to think about what we can give these holidays where “the long walk” (our efforts and care for another) shows our love more than what we spend.

Happiness is contagious

dancingfriendsNick Christakis (Harvard School of Public Health) and James Fowler (Univ. of Calif., San Diego), who previously used the Framingham Heart Study to show that having fat friends increasingly makes people obese, are back with a very interesting paper showing that happy friends make you happy — what the co-authors called ‘an emotional quiet riot’.

It is already established that happiness and having social capital (friendships) are linked, but this research demonstrates that it matters how happy your friends are and that it is the happy friends that are causing your happiness rather than vice versa. Conversely, having unhappy friends over time makes you less happy.

The research shows up in the latest issue of BMJ. “Dynamic spread of happiness in a large social network: longitudinal analysis over 20 years in the Framingham Heart Study.”  [The study involved 5,124 adults aged 21 to 70 who were followed between 1971 and 2003.]

They measured happiness with a 4-item construct:  “I felt hopeful about the future”; “I was happy”; “I enjoyed life” and “I felt that I was just as good as other people.”

They found that happiness is a network phenomenon, clustering in groups of people that extend out to 3 degrees of separation (the friends’ friends of one’s friends), but with greater impact on friendships that are 2 or 1 degree of separation from you.  Demonstrating the magnitude of this effect, co-author James Fowler noted, “if your friend’s friend’s friend becomes happy, that has a bigger impact on you being happy than putting an extra $5,000 in your pocket.”

They found that happiness spreads across a diverse array of social ties, from spouses to siblings to neighbors. They found no happiness effect of co-workers and found that nearby ties had a far greater influence than distant ties: for example, knowing someone who is happy, makes you 15.3% more likely to be happy, but having happy next-door neighbors makes you a full 34% more likely to be happy (much higher than having happy neighbors merely on your block). The optimal effect was for a happy friend living less than half a mile away, which boosts your chance of happiness by42%. In one of the study’s surprises, happy spouses (which one assumes live less than a half mile away!) only increased one’s chance of happiness by 8%. Part of the lower spouse effect is that happiness spreads more effectively through same sex relationships than relationships (romantic or not) between a man and a woman.  (Gays take note!)  Christakis and Fowler believe we may take emotional cues from people of our gender.

They observed that network characteristics (where you were in the network and how happy the people were around you) could independently predict which individuals would be happy years into the future.

They suggest that there may be an evolutionary basis for human emotions.  Previous work noted that emotions like laughter or smiling seemed evolutionary adapted to helping people form social bonds.  [They note: "Human laughter, for example, is believed to have evolved from the 'play face' expression seen in other primates in relaxed social situations. Such facial expressions and positive emotions enhance social relations by producing analogous pleasurable feelings in others."]

While they couldn’t prove it, they suggested 3 possible causal mechanisms:

  1. happy people might share their good fortune
  2. happy people might change their behavior toward others (by being nicer or less hostile)
  3. happy people might exude a contagious emotion (although this would have to be over a sustained time period)

Christakis and Fowler noted that the 3-degrees of separation impact observed in happiness was the same as for smoking and obesity (which also reached out 3 degrees). They wonder whether a “3-degrees of influence” extends to behaviors like depression, anxiety, loneliness, drinking, eating, exercise and other health-related activities.

So the next time you’re unhappy realize that you may be “infecting” your friends with unhappiness as well.  Christakis’ work is suggesting that we need friends, but we also need to carefully pick friends that are happy and have healthy behaviors or we risk that their unhappiness and unhealthy behaviors will spread to us.  The New York Times notes that one of the co-authors indicated that he now thinks twice about his mood knowing that it affects others. That said, he noted: “We are not giving you the advice to start smiling at everyone you meet in New York….That would be dangerous.”

While they think that face-to-face connection is important in spreading happiness (hence the decline of these effects with distance), they did a separate study of 1,700 Facebook profiles, where they found that people smiling in their photographs had more Facebook friends and that more of those friends were smiling. While the Facebook study is just an initial foray into the online word, Christakis thinks that it shows that some of these happiness findings might extend on social networking as well.  And it would take longitudinal studies to determine whether our online activities are gradually eroding our need for face-to-face communication to spread happiness.

Note: Justin Wolfers (on the Freakonomics blog) is skeptical of this research.  As he notes:

[It's possible that it is not your friends' happiness that is causing yours, but that "if you and I are friends, we are often subject to similar influences. If a buddy of ours dies, we’ll both be less happy. Or, less dramatically, if our favorite football team wins, we’ll both be happier. But this isn’t contagious happiness — it is simply a natural outcome of the shared experiences of people in the same social circles. Unfortunately, observational data cannot distinguish the headline-grabbing conclusion — that happiness is contagious — from my more mundane alternative: friends have shared emotional influences."

Wolfers notes that a very careful article by Ethan Cohen-Cole and Jason Fletcher uses the same research design to show how it can lead to silly conclusions.  Cohen-Cole and Fletcher find in another dataset that this approach shows “height, headaches, and acne are also contagious.” As Wolfers notes, it’s more likely that “the same jackhammer causing your headache is likely causing mine.” And the height finding is obviously not causal but more likely a function of homophily (people choosing similar friends).

See Clive Thompson, “Is Happiness Catching?” (NYT Sunday Magazine, 9/13/09)

Boston Globe story available here.

New York Times story available here (which also has a nice graphic showing the clustering in this network of happy and unhappy people).

L.A. Times story available here.

See Wolfers’ Freakonomics blog post here.

We ‘want’ diversity, but live increasingly in segregated communities

The Pew Center has an interesting research report showing this contradiction both for political diversity and for socioeconomic and religious diversity.

Politics: Americans profess to want political diversity in their communities — true of all Americans, especially for Democrats, Liberals, Whites and Blacks and more wealthy Americans: Note: for conservative Republicans it is almost a tossup with 49% wanting to live in a diverse political environment and 43% wanting to live around others who share their views.  That said, more and more Americans are living in politically segregated communities.  Bill Bishop and Robert Cushing, whose interesting book “The Big Sort” showed how Americans are self-segregating politically note that these trends continued apace in 2008.  Nearly half of all votes (48%) cast for President in 2008 were in counties that sided with Obama or McCain by a margin of at least 20 percentage points (i.e., at least 60-40).   Ironically, even a clear majority of Democrats living in these landslide counties want to live among a mix of political views (62%) and by a razor thin plurality Republicans in landslide counties prefer to live among political diversity (46% to 44%).  [Note: Bishop believes that people choose to live among people who share their backgrounds, tastes and lifestyles, and that these preferences are increasingly correlated with political views.]

thebigsortThe Pew authors note it is unclear what is causing what: people who have moved more recently into landslide counties do not have statistically significant different views about diversity.

Race, Religious and Socioeconomic Diversity:

Patterns here are similar as with regard to political diversity.  Most Americans want to be among a mix of races, religions, people of varied socioeconomic classes.

The big divergence comes with attitudes towards immigrants.  Most Americans (other than liberal Democrats and Hispanics) prefer to live in a community with few immigrants rather than many immigrants, despite the research of Rob Sampson that shows that immigrants are more law-abiding than Americans on average.  [The researchers note that the form of the question had to be different for immigrants since just one in eight Americans are immigrants, and thus they did not ask whether you want to live in a community with a mix of immigrants and non-immigrants or not.  It is possible that the wording form influenced the responses.

So what's going on?  The researchers note that it could be a "talk-is-cheap" phenomenon with people giving answers that they think interviewers want to hear or "saying the right thing".  Political correctness held that the increases in answers among Americans of their attitudes toward race were just cheap talk, and then we find with the election of Obama that a majority of Americans ARE willing to elect a president who is black, so we should be wary of asserting that people are always lying about their feelings.

With regard toward racial attitudes we find that comfort levels are very different with regard to diversity among blacks and whites.  Whites prefer to live in communities that are say 15-20% non-white whereas Hispanics or Blacks often have an ideal *diversity* rate of 50% white and 50% black.  Part of what is going on in white flight is non-whites moving into neighborhoods and the percentage of non-whites rising above most whites' comfort levels.  As the whites leave, the percentage non-white rises higher and higher, causing more whites to move out, and the community winds up becoming predominantly non-white.

The report notes that black/white segregation has declined significantly since 1960 (when 70% of blacks lived in predominantly black neighborhoods), "but immigrant segregation as well as Hispanic and Asian segregation has increased in recent decades.  [Some of these measures are sensitive to what measures one uses to measure segregation -- the so called dissimilarity index or the  isolation index: as the population of groups rises or falls in percentage terms, their isolation indices can change formulaicly without them actually moving across neighborhoods.]  “Even with this increasing spatial isolation of the well-to-do, however, blacks are still nearly three times as segregated from whites as are affluent Americans from those who are less well off.”

Read the Pew Report “Americans Claim to Like Diverse Communities but do They Really” here.

Facebook changing the political dynamic?

apathyisboringFacebook won its first election last month?

Vanessa Sievers, a 20-year old Dartmouth undergraduate from Montana, claims that $50 and all her Facebook connections catapulted her to victory in the race for Treasurer in mostly rural Grafton County, NH. Some call it less of a fight in the jungle than an ambush in the forest. The incumbent Treasurer misjudged how Facebook, in the wake of low voter turnout for such a race, could upend the result.

Sievers used her $51 to purchase a Facebook ad to mobilize students at Plymouth State College and Dartmouth University, narrowly upsetting an incumbent Treasurer (Carol Elliott) with decades of political experience. Sievers bested Elliott by 586 votes across the county, and in Hanover Sievers won by 2,438 votes (almost exactly the number of Dartmouth students who voted there).

Ironically, the fix to this problem is more people caring and voting.  In communities where voting in local races has dropped precipitously, it leaves candidates far more exposes to a smaller number of votes influencing the election.  College student votes normally could not have turned this election unless lots of adults didn’t vote.  But in an era where in many communities the League of Woman Voters is not as active as it once was, it may be that Facebook candidacies have an easier way of reaching potential voters than ones using older technologies (coffees at neighbors’ houses or standing on street corners).

“The talk around here [Grafton County] is how the young woman — a ‘teenybopper,’ in the words of Ms. Elliott, who was not amused at her fate or at the furies unleashed on Facebook — hijacked a centuries-old process to inherit a part-time job that pays only $6,408 annually but has serious, adult responsibilities, like investing around $17 million when property-tax revenues pour in and sometimes borrowing millions during the course of a year.

Vanessa Sievers, Grafton County Treasurer-elect

Vanessa Sievers, Grafton County Treasurer-elect

Indeed, Dartmouth College folklore, a rich vein even in non-election years, includes lurid and almost surely apocryphal tales of students storming into local politics, taking over the process and producing such landmark legislation as the mandate to pave a road from Hanover directly to South Hadley and Northampton, Mass., the homes, respectively, of Mount Holyoke and Smith colleges. These were tales of Dartmouth boys being boys and of (cooped-up) boys chasing girls.

…[Sievers'] resume includes being the co- chair of the college’s Bait and Bullet Club and…[her] political profile includes ardent support for hunting…. A member of the Democratic National Committee Youth Council, she is a symbol — and so is the reaction of some of her opponents to her election. Ms. Elliott…told John P. Gregg of the Valley News newspaper that the college students who voted for her opponent were ‘brainwashed.’

“She [Sievers] used technology that caught older people by surprise,” said Michael Hais, a retired vice president of the Frank N. Magid Associates communications research firm and the co-author, with Morley Winograd, of Millennial Makeover, a book outlining the political potential of Ms. Sievers and her Millennial generation. “This symbolizes a generational conflict that may not be as shrill as the one in the 1960s but may be just as important….”

Some of the first stirrings of this [the new dynamics of an Internet-based campaign[ became apparent two years ago when Andrew Edwards and Jeffrey Fontas, both 19 at the time, mounted campaigns for the New Hampshire Legislature from Nashua, in the southern part of the state. This year more advanced versions of the strategy were unveiled in the national presidential campaign, here in Grafton County in the county treasurer race and now in Israel, where the campaign of Benjamin Netanyahu for prime minister has virtually replicated the look of Mr. Obama’s Web site and is seeking to harness the power of social-network communications.

Eliot has fired back; she now asserts that students who live in another state shouldn’t be able to vote in county contests, since they don’t have enough connection with ensuring that local government works. The political-comedy Internet site 24/6, noted: “At a time when the country is in crisis and the world is mere weeks away from a sweeping revolution in American politics, the last thing we need is young people ‘getting involved’ and bringing ‘fresh ideas’ to the table.”

See “The Facebook revolution: Online social networking didn’t just bring young people into politics, it brought them into power“(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 11/30/08), from whom these quotes are taken.  NYT article on Sievers’ election here.