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Politicians' Web town halls boost their approval ratings

Lawmakers' Internet-based town hall meetings increase constituents' approval ratings for the politician, enhance citizen engagement in politics and ultimately impact the probability of participants voting for that member of Congress, according to a new Congressional Management Foundation report. CMF Executive Director Beverley Bell said online meetings offer lawmakers a flexible tool for communication in addition to traditional in-person meetings, tele-town halls and newsletters. "People like hearing from - and feeling heard by - their representatives in all formats, including online," she said Monday.

Researchers from CMF, Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, Northeastern University, Ohio State University, and the University of California-Riverside found that members who engaged in online town halls experienced an average net approval rating jump of 18 points with similar increases in trust and perceptions of personal qualities. Town hall meetings also attract people from demographics not traditionally engaged in politics as well as those frustrated with the political system. About 96 percent of those polled said they would like to be included in similar events in the future.

Among those taking part in the study were Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin and Reps. Earl Blumenauer, Michael Capuano, James Clyburn, Mike Conaway, Anna Eshoo, Jack Kingston, Zoe Lofgren, Don Manzullo, Jim Matheson, David Price, George Radanovich, and Dave Weldon. The town halls with the House members were conducted in the summer and fall of 2006, prior to the 2006 election, and the session with Levin was conducted in the summer of 2008.

Read the full CMF report. (PDF)

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