Power Players

How you and your smartphone are changing politics

Power Players

Political Punch

"One third of voters say they have not watched television in the previous week," reads a napkin at a temporary Google space in Charlotte, N.C. Another notes that 90 percent of tablet users now consume news on the tablet. One more statistic block printed on yet another napkin: 83 percent of smartphone users are registered voters.

In other words, new media and social media are a huge part of the 2012 election, driving technology giants to increase their footprints not only in Washington, D.C., but also at the quadrennial political conventions. Technology companies were at both the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., and last week's Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.. Google Inc. set up shop in giant shipping containers built specifically for the conventions.

Young voters "are much more comfortable watching the news and evaluating the news on their laptops [and] on their phones," says former congresswoman Susan Molinari. Molinari is now vice president of Google Inc.'s Public Policy and Government Affairs arm in Washington, D.C.

"It's a mobile society, and politicians really need to learn to speak to their constituents directly," says the politician-turned-techie..

Political Punch caught up with Molinari in Charlotte, N.C., where the former U.S. congresswoman and 1996 Republican National Convention keynote speaker outlined the stark differences between past and present political conventions.

"All you have to do is look around this room and you can see how much conventions have changed. Not only in this room but in everyone's living room," says Molinari. "People can watch it, they can interact, you know we call these conventions without walls now."

With convention speeches driving search trends, pleas for donations popping into smartphones right before the big RNC and DNC moments, and convention goers glued to laptops and smartphones in the audience, it sure looks like politics have gone hi-tech for the 2012 election.

The Obama and Romney campaigns are reacting to this new media world, peddling mobile apps, launching cell phone swipe card donations, and even making major announcements via new media.

Both campaigns have also been aware of the changing landscape when it comes to ads. "A lot of their money for their advertisements are now spent online," says Molinari. "Because some of the people that they want to reach, they can target them and evaluate their response."

Political ads are also slowly moving toward micro-targeting, which "really is the wave of the future," says Molinari, who is quick to add that Google does not share its users' names or information. But the information is already out there, through magazine subscriptions, online purchases and all the other information people fill out.

Bottom line, elected officials need to get used to young voters being online constantly, consuming everything on laptops and tablets.

"The technological implications for elections, and for business, is absolutely amazing, because this space is just moving so quickly," says the former congressman. "It's just kind of funny to think when I was giving the keynote speech, none of this was out there."

There was plenty social buzz that came out of these conventions. What did people type into search engines after Michelle Obama spoke? And what was the query after Clint Eastwood's unorthodox performance? Check out this week's Political Punch to find out.

ABC News' Stephanie Smith and Sarah Burke contributed to this report.

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