State of the Union: Electing Xbox Live for Campaign Coverage


by Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum (and, these days, it seems to really only be left or right), you have to applaud Microsoft. Why? They’re really trying to raise awareness of the election in general through Xbox Live, something that seemed almost unheard of until now. They’ve aired both Presidential debates and the Vice Presidential debate online, encouraging users to vote live during them. And they’ve worked in an Election center on Xbox Live, providing news clips and information about the election.

There’s still one overarching question: Will Microsoft’s baseline get out the vote campaign make a difference in the election in the long run?

The Live polling is actually very smart and an effective way of engaging the audience. Research qualms aside (such as not randomizing the response orders), the questions offer real-time results from the Xbox Live audience. It gives viewers a sense of belonging, knowing that their opinion is validated or invalidated by the others participating. And it seems to be sort of a big hit among the Xbox Live community.

According to Microsoft, around 100,000 Xbox Live members participated by responding to the 70 questions posited during the second Presidential debate. Each question garnered between 35,000 and 40,000 responses, which are sample sizes that would make even the most seasoned statistician blush; having said that, it may be time to start taking these polls at least slightly seriously. Granted, the Xbox Live audience is one that is likely very skewed towards one candidate (and the results tend to bear that notion out), but it’s also a good sign that so many people are engaging in the opportunity to be heard.

Should the results from a live poll during the second Presidential debate on Xbox Live be viewed as the truth? Not at all. What they should be viewed as is something differently entirely. People should view them as a new generation participating in the voting process and the fact that there were over 2 million individual responses to the question is extremely promising. And there is some diversity in the answers, showing that these are honest, blink decisions on the part of the viewers. They should also be viewed as a new avenue of information, one that simply didn’t exist in the past.

Those answers viewed and tallied will likely lead some to view the Election center. The repository of news and video clips can give undecided voters a second look at the candidates, as well as show them things they might not have known before. As of July 2011, the US population was about 312 million people. Statistic Brain said that—as of September 2012—there were 30 million Xbox Live subscribers. Think about that. 10% of the US population is an Xbox Live subscriber, which means that, possibly, upwards of 30 million people are learning about the election that might not have otherwise. That’s huge in this day and age of information and knowledge.

The 100,000 who participated in the polling is less than 1% of the US population. Clearly, that’s not nearly enough of a surge to move the needle in one direction or the other in terms of candidates. What it does do, however, is encourage conversation among voters. It offers people younger than 18 who can’t vote the opportunity to see how their views line up with others during the debate. And this shouldn’t be viewed as a primer for voting via Xbox Live. I don’t think the country is ready to elect a President via mouth-breathing and profanity laced tirades about noobs.

The live polling and election center are both interesting progressions for the election process and Xbox Live. Gone are the days of solely relying on newspaper articles, Gallup polls and the internet in general for election updates. Now, gamers can get real time information while it’s happening, all within the confines of their dashboards on the Xbox 360. It harkens back the days when MTV still played some music and emphasized their Rock the Vote campaign. It inspires people to pay attention, even if the incentive happens to be a worthless bit of armor for your avatar on Xbox Live.

Obviously, Xbox Live election coverage shouldn’t be the sole source of information, but any time I can get some information while yelling at an entertainment device is okay by me. Xbox: Elect President!

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