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Pew Survey Charts Surge in Online Political Activity in 2008 Campaign

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Pew Survey Charts Surge in Online Political Activity in 2008 Campaign

Article excerpt

"The 2008 election was the first in which more than half the voting-age population used the internet for political purposes," a new report by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, released late today, reveals. It also concludes, "Obama supporters were more active online than McCain supporters and online political users became more partisan in their information-seeking behavior."

Some 55% of all adults said they went online for news and information about the election or to communicate with others about the race. The percentage of Americans relying on the internet as a major source of campaign news more than doubled since the 2000 election (from 11% to 26%).

Obama backers took advantage of various emerging web activities -- from text notifications to posting original content -- much more than McCain supporters, by roughly 3-2 or 2-1 margins. Fully 15% of Obama backers donated to his campaign online, compared with just 6% on the McCain side.

The survey, indeed, found that social media platforms and video-sharing sites "played a key role in 2008 as voters went online to share their views with others and try to mobilize them to their cause." Among some of the key activities and technologies that surged in prominence:

* 45% of wired Americans watched videos online related to politics or the election.

* 52% of those with a social networking profile used their social network site for political purposes.

* One in five of all internet users (18%) contributed to the online political debate by posting original campaign-related content.

"Voters in 2008 were not just passive followers of the political process," said Aaron Smith, Research Specialist at the Pew Internet Project and author of the Project's new report on these findings. "They used a wide range of digital tools and technologies to get involved in the race, to harness their creativity in support of their chosen candidate, and to join forces with others who shared their same political goals."

This report is based on a survey of 2,254 adults conducted between Nov. 20, 2008 and Dec. 4, 2008. The overall sample has a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points.

More from the report follows.

*As voters increasingly go online to stay politically informed, the importance of the internet relative to other political news sources has also grown more prominent ...

At the same time, online citizens have become more partisan in their political browsing. One-third (33%) of online news consumers say they typically seek out online political information from sites that share their political point of view, up from the 26% who said that at a similar point in 2004. …

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