According to Reuters, the Social Research Foundation has found that Second Life residents support Barack Obama 2-to-1 over John McCain. The survey of 1,000 SLers found that 554 residents preferred Obama while only 143 supported McCain. This finding is true whether the Second Life resident is a self-reported American or from another country.
The Obama-supporter in me gets a big kick out of this. But the lower-case "d" democrat in me finds this somewhat appalling. Where is the virtual public commons that I was promised? Where my Republicans at?
I did some digging around this morning to try and find these "missing Republicans" in Second Life.
Looking at the Second Life resident-organized groups, there does appear to be a larger support base for Obama, with 1,300 residents in the "Obama for President" group, compared to only 300-some residents in the largest McCain for President group. (The American Democratic and Republican groups seem more closely matched, with around 300 members of each.)
I stopped by the "Straight Talk Cafe", an unofficial gathering point for McCain-Palin supporters (click here to teleport). It seemed to be a rather hastily built structure, amidst a largely unfinished sim. It was deserted during the 3-4 times I was there over the course of the day. Several of the scripts were malfunctioning, and for some reason they didn't allow me to set a landmark there. Perhaps it was just an off day there.
Compare this with the Obama HQ (click here to teleport), which seems much more well-planned. It has a rich array of media, from links to the official website to videos to text cards full of info on Obama and his positions. Often when I drop in there, I find Obama supporters hanging out or chatting with passersby.
Given the fact that Obama and McCain have been in a virtual deadheat in the real world polls, what is the deal with Second Life? Are there more progressive, liberal folks flocking to the virtual world? Is it the age group that tends to dominate SL, the late-20s / mid-30s demographic?
I found this all kind of sad. Although I'm an Obama supporter, I would love to talk with McCain boosters about his policies, particularly his positions on foreign policy and the United Nations. Does McCain support closing Gitmo? Would he fully fund efforts to stop the scourge of AIDS in Africa? I really want to know, and I would want to know if his supporters care about these things.
My ideal vision for virtual worlds is that they can be a new vision of the public commons in a Digital Age. A place where people of different political, cultural, religious and ethical viewpoints can come together, debate, argue and maybe even find common ground.
Perhaps I'm expecting too much of what is essentially a niche subsection of tech-savvy, net-connected people. But in a tight election year, with so much at stake, I think lots of Americans of all stripes would appreciate a space to have an honest dialogue with each other about what direction we want our country to go.