As reported over at Bokardo, a couple of days ago Hillary Clinton posted the following question to Yahoo Answers:
“Based on your own family’s experience, what do you think we should do to improve health care in America?”
At the time of writing there are over 37,000 replies to this – something I find both troubling and gratifying. (Search Engine Journal notes that this volume of replies makes Yahoo Answers an excellent platform.)
I find it gratifying because, quite honestly, when was the last time you saw a politican ask so openly about a major issue? This is a great way to both poll for opinions and to make a show that she will listen to voters – something that bodes well for the next national election (although I don’t, alas, think she could win).
I find it troubling because of the Internet usage demographics in the United States. Although it also notes that the digital divide is slowly closing, this article notes that not everyone is represented on the Internet.
Differences along income and education lines are also large. Those in urban areas, those who earn more money and those with more education are far more likely to own computers and have Internet access. One study found that 70 percent of households headed by someone with a post-graduate education had Internet access, compared to only 30 percent of households headed by someone with only a high school education.
When Hillary Clinton asks the userbase of Yahoo Answers about healthcare, she’s largely excluding the people medical policies affect the most: people who can’t afford to get on the Internet. It’s a nice idea, but it’s worth remembering that while technically the web is a democratic medium, it’s not a socially democratic medium until everyone’s on it. Will that ever happen? Probably not. She would be better off getting opinions from the street.