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10/31/2008
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Obama's Online Answer Center Fields Tough Questions

Everyone is worried about the economy. But surprisingly, the economy isn't the subject of the top three questions people are asking online at an "answer center" run by Barack Obama's presidential campaign. Visitors are most interested in whether Obama is a Christian and a patriot, and they want to know his position on women's issues.

Everyone is worried about the economy. But surprisingly, the economy isn't the subject of the top three questions people are asking online at an "answer center" run by Barack Obama's presidential campaign. Visitors are most interested in whether Obama is a Christian and a patriot, and they want to know his position on women's issues.RightNow Technologies, a software services company that runs the Obama Answer Center, has been keeping tabs on what people are asking at the Web site. Enter a search word at the site, such as "Christian," and it pulls up commonly asked questions. Click on a question, and the Obama campaign responds with answers, sometimes lengthy, and sometimes accompanied by YouTube videos and photographs that support the answer.

RightNow says that currently the top three questions people click at the Answer Center are:

1) Is Sen. Obama a Christian?

2) I received an e-mail that said Sen. Obama refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance or sing the National Anthem. Is that true?

3) How can I find out more about Sen. Obama's position on women's issues?

These results provide an interesting glimpse into the Americana mind-set. The first two questions demonstrate, anecdotally, that there are more people concerned about whether Obama's values match their own than they are about how his tax or health insurance plans might affect them. Even more interesting is that it's presumably mostly Christians asking the question about his Christian faith, but that's just one (albeit large) demographic. It's amazing the question would rank higher in popularity than questions of concern posed by a broader swath of the U.S. population.

How the Obama campaign responds to these questions is interesting, too. The one on Christianity includes text answers confirming his Christian faith, a photo of Obama being sworn is as senator using his family Bible, a YouTube video of a CNN news clip on a grade school in Indonesia he attended, and an option for the visitor to send an e-mail blast to others confirming Obama's faith.

It's obviously a hot topic. Enter "Obama Christian" in the Google search engine, and you'll get 23.9 million results. "Obama Christianity" brings 26.3 million results. "Obama Christian or Muslim" brings 4.7 million results.

I don't know what to read into the fact that women's issues is the third-most-popular question at the Obama Answer Center, other than that there are many women still trying to determine how to vote based on each candidate's stance on reproductive issues, violence against women, equal pay, etc.

Since the August primary, Obama's Answer Center has seen a 700% increase in visitors for a total of 712,000 page views, RightNow Technologies tells me. And it's received 312,000 e-mail questions since August. The center tracks more than 850,000 voters and their questions, which are integrated with a data warehouse to analyze data patterns by demographics.

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