Despite strong visibility among constituents, all four of the top presidential candidates’ Web sites undermine their campaign efforts. According to a Brief from Forrester Research, Inc. (Nasdaq: FORR), Bill Bradley, George W. Bush, Al Gore, and John McCain all fail to use the Internet to further their campaigns. Their sites suffer from cumbersome navigation, a lack of key functions, and poor synchronization with contenders’ offline activities. These shortcomings hinder the politicians’ ability to get their messages out to voters, capitalize on television exposure, and position themselves as Net- and technology-friendly leaders.

The sites were reviewed based on their overall functionality, as well as their ability to effectively provide voters with access to pertinent campaign information, including a candidate’s position on key issues, donating and volunteering opportunities, email updates on campaign highlights, and campaign trail locations. The results from best to worse Web site were Governor George W. Bush’s, Vice President Al Gore’s, Former Senator Bill Bradley’s, and Senator John McCain’s.

“This is the first presidential election in which candidates and voters have access to a wealth of information via the Web,” said John C. McCarthy, group director, Internet Policy & Regulation Research. “The Web is a low-cost, nationwide tool that effectively supports fundraising efforts and enables candidates to clearly express their views and immediately rebut opponents. However, current candidates’ sites fail to fully reach this potential.”

“For example, weak sites dim a candidates’ ability to fully use the Net as a follow-up mechanism when they receive favorable TV exposure. They also can’t connect with the less experienced Net-voter, who will not have the patience to dig through a Web site for information. As a result, they will have to spend precious dollars on more expensive offline campaigning initiatives to obtain similar results,” added McCarthy. “With 43% of Americans online, it has become essential for candidates to position themselves as Internet-savvy. What better place to start than with their own Web sites?”

About Forrester’s New Internet Policy & Regulation Research
To track technology’s impact on all aspects of government, including electoral politics, public policy, and administration, Forrester Research, Inc. recently launched its newest lens, Internet Policy & Regulation Research. As technology continues to transform the business world, it is also reshaping the political platform and redefining government policy. Forrester’s Internet Policy & Regulation Research lens will analyze government’s role in the development of the Internet economy and the impact of technology on government administration and electoral politics.

Internet Policy & Regulation Research is being spearheaded by John C. McCarthy, group director, and Jay Stanley, analyst. John is looking at the growing overlap between technology and all levels of public policy. He brings his broad understanding of the Internet and how eBusiness is changing large companies’ organizations and business models. Jay is currently examining the technology policies of the presidential candidates and how government will shape the evolution of technology.

For the Brief “Web Sites Underserve Presidential Candidates” Forrester used a 24-question survey to rank the top four presidential candidates’ Web sites. Each question was rated on a five-point system.