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Poll shows youth vote critical in election -

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TONY JONES: A battle for the hearts and minds of Australia's young voters is being fought out in
cyberspace for the first time in this federal election, taking our political leaders way out of
their comfort zone into the brave new world of bloggers and virtual friendship sites. The youth
vote will be critical in this election, with a newspaper poll this week revealing that a staggering
73 per cent for those under the age of 29 planned to vote for Labor's relatively fresh-faced
Opposition Leader, Kevin Rudd.

Deborah Cornwall reports.

(excerpt from a YouTube video)

TOMMY HAYES: Leave John Howard alone, please. You're lucky he walks in the morning for you
bastards!

(end of excerpt)

DEBORAH CORNWALL: It's the first baby steps for politicians. Mugging into the blogosphere with a
few stiff messages for the kids.

(excerpt from a Labor YouTube video)

KEVIN RUDD, FEDERAL OPPOSITION LEADER: You know, young people say to me this: The thing that really
gets up their nose is when they try and go online and it's too slow or they can't even get
connected.

(end of excerpt)

(excerpt from a Liberal YouTube video)

JOHN HOWARD, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: Healthy snacks like an apple over chips and lollies.
Children should be encouraged to get out and about.

(end of excerpt)

DEBORAH CORNWALL: Both party leaders have been trawling cyberspace for young new friends for the
past few months now, but with mixed success.

PETER VAN ONSELEN, EDITH COWAN UNIVERSITY: You've got a very basic Howard MySpace space with nine
friends including a few from Cabinet and then Kevin Rudd has a polished MySpace site with 18,000
friends.

Howard loves to paint himself as the underdog and his performance on social networking sites like
YouTube, MySpace and Facebook show that he very much is the underdog because he has almost no
friends and no presence.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: For politicians obsessed with staying on message, the world-wide web can be a
scary place.

(excerpt from a Liberal YouTube video)

JOHN HOWARD (comedic voiceover): Australian action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions since 1990
led by my Government -

(end of excerpt)

DEBORAH CORNWALL: While Kevin07's postings have been largely ignored by YouTubers, the Prime
Minister's have been mercilessly pilloried.

YOUTUBE BLOGGER: So, John, we've watched your video on YouTube, the one about climate change. We
hear what you're saying and it sounds like this, 'wah, wah, wah, I'm the Prime Minister, I'm trying
to get re-elected, wah, wah, wah, climate change is important, wah, wah, wah, the world's going to
die and fall apart'. (yells)

PETER VAN ONSELEN: The extent to which the political parties are using the internet at this
election campaign is unprecedented. They're doing it as a way of providing controlled messages
ironically through a medium that is not easy to control.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: In the United States, internet campaigning is now so mainstream, presidential
candidates have started dealing directly with voters via cyberspace. No matter how awkward the
questions.

US VOTER: If you were elected president of the United States would you allow us to be married to
each other?

US PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My wife Elizabeth spoke out a few weeks ago and she actually supports
gay marriage. I do not.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: But while the political internet is still in its infancy here, the federal
campaign has been a huge and largely unexpected boon for newspapers across the country. They've
ramped up their online presence in time for the election.

GARTH MONTGOMERY, BLOG EDITOR, DAILY TELEGRAPH: In terms of trying to capture that youth vote
online and generate interest in everybody is trying to have a piece of that this election. We've
personally, and the Daily Telegraph seen our traffic double when we launched and election site last
week.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: But political observers say it's a mistake to think internet campaigning is just
about Generation Y. For John Howard, those pre-dawn YouTube messages have also been a very
effective weapon in setting the media agenda for the day.

For Kevin Rudd, a chance to shine, as the cyber-savvy face of the future.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Kevin Rudd challenged John Howard to an online debate and I think he would have
choked on his WeetBix if Howard had actually responded to that. He didn't expect him too. The
message from Rudd was to try and make the point that he's offering and Howard is refusing and
that's the sign that he is the younger leader, he's a fresh face with new ideas, who's in touch
with young people as well.

Deborah Cornwall, Lateline.