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What Do the Netroots Want? Straw Poll Offers Answers

By Garance Franke-Ruta
AUSTIN -- The economy may be the top worry of most Americans, but a straw poll of attendees at Netroots Nation 2008 shows that liberal bloggers and Democratic activists are looking to the environment as much as their pocketbooks.

Asked their top concern, the bloggers in the informal survey cited "energy and global warming" (19 percent), "the growing gap between the rich and the poor" (17 percent) and "loss of constitutional rights" (15 percent). The straw poll was conducted July 17-20 at a conference booth by the Campaign for America's Future and Democracy Corps. Drawing 13 percent of the 2,000 registered conference goers, the poll is scheduled for formal release tomorrow.

Strikingly, 32 percent of those participating in the straw poll said they had given more than $400 to political candidates in the past year, and only 11 percent said they had not made a political donation of some amount.

Forty-one percent said they were "currently active in federal politics and campaigns" as a volunteer, and 68 percent said that they contributed to a political blog.

The idea that bloggers are newcomers to the political process was not borne out by the responses, perhaps reflecting the longevity of the netroots, which first began to coalesce in late 2002; 78 percent said they had been active in politics for more than five years, and 47 percent said they had been blogging for more than three years. Two-thirds said they did not work with "a political organization, campaign or other such entity" as their day job.

Those polled also seemed aware that their top concerns, such as constitutional rights and income inequality, were not the same as the problems cited by most Americans, and when asked "the top priority for the next administration," cited the more widely shared concerns of "the war in Iraq" (23 percent), "energy and global warming" (20 percent), and a "lack of affordable health care" (15 percent).

The most recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found economic concerns, gasoline and energy prices, and the Iraq war were the top three concerns for the country in mid-July. Domestic issues such as health care and worries about terrorism ranked below the war in Iraq in the Post survey.

The demographics of those polled were consistent with previous reports about political bloggers, if a bit more female than many blog audiences. Fifty-eight percent polled were male and 40 percent female; 81 percent were white, 5 percent Hispanic and 4 percent black. It was a diverse group, age-wise: Slightly more than a quarter were 18 to 29 years old, while the age groups 30-39, 40-49 and 50-64 each had slightly less than a quarter.

Conference goers were split on whether they were liberal or progressive, reflecting a longstanding debate in that ideological community over what to call themselves. "Progressive" had a slight edge at 47 percent, with "liberal" following at 40 percent. Just 12 percent called themselves moderate. There were no conservatives.

By Post Editor  |  July 20, 2008; 4:12 PM ET
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