This story was written by Mackenzie Meador, Daily Texan
Sophia Kwong barely remembers voting in 2004. She didn't attend any political rallies and cast her ballot for John Kerry "half-heartedly."
But after attending a rally for presidential candidate Barack Obama earlier this year, things changed.
Kwong, a UT alumna and Austin resident, now checks the Illinois senator's Web site, news sources and Facebook.com groups on a regular basis, participating in online discussions and sending out information to "anyone who will listen."
The Internet has become an easy and natural way for students and the public to get involved in politics and the presidential campaign. Groups supporting, opposing or just joking about each of the candidates can be found by the hundreds on Facebook, ranging from "John McCain for President" to "Stop Barack Obama" to "Dumbledore/Obama 2008."
Within the last year, Facebook has started featuring political applications and official profile pages for politicians. There are now dozens of applications and page add-ons, including ones that let users vote in issue polls and express political beliefs.
"I've seen a definite shift between 2004 and 2008 in how excited people our age are about politics," Kwong said. "I think the biggest difference is that there are a lot of ideas out there, a lot of message boards and blogs."
Kwong is the officer of "Clinton and Obama Supporters Coming Together for America," a Facebook group created before Sen. Hillary Clinton's withdrawl from the race hat focuses on uniting Clinton and Obama supporters.
The group's newness, small size and specific purpose made it easier for new members to get involved, she said.
"I've had a lot of good discussions in the group and met a lot of people," Kwong said. "They're really good at publicizing events and pushing local involvement."
Economics sophomore Miles Gilmour, a member of UT Students for McCain, said the organization's group uses the Internet to coordinate events, organize rallies and promote voter registration.
"Sen. McCain has been increasing his online presence," Gilmour said. "We'll do the same as the election nears to reach students and make sure that McCain has a strong presence at UT."
Obama's Facebook page lists more than 1 million supporters, while McCain's shows more than 150,000.
"That's about what I would expect," said economics senior Clint Chegin, who is chairman of the Young Conservatives of Texas. "The majority of young people support Obama, and they're more excited. The people who support McCain aren't the ones joining groups."