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More Than Half of Americans Using Internet for Political News and Activities

By Jose Antonio Vargas
For the first time, more than a half the country's voting-age population used the Internet to get political news or get involved in the political process in 2008.

A report released today by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, based on a survey of 2,254 adults interviewed, confirms what's more than apparent to the online masses: The Web is changing our political life.

And it's not just affecting how people consume political information -- it's also impacting how they interact with the political process. The report signals the undeniable emergence of what Lee Rainie, Pew Internet's director, called a growing "participatory class" in an interview days before the November election.

Among some key findings, the report said:

  • 45 percent of wired Americans watched political-related videos online, with nearly half of all 18 to 29 years olds (Internet users and non-users alike) having watched online political videos during the 2008 election cycle.

  • 33 percent of online users shared digital political content with others, whether by forwarding an e-mail or sending links to a video or a blog.

  • 52 percent of users on social networking sites used those sites for political means, which means something as personal as having a Facebook account can be used for political purposes.

    Nothing in the report would surprise anyone in online political circles -- say, the bloggers over at the bipartisan TechPresident.com, which covers the intersection of technology and politics. The report said that President Barack Obama's supporters were more engaged with his campaign online than supporters of Sen. John McCain; 26 percent of Obama supporters posted their own original content in an online forum compared with 15 percent of McCain supporters, and 15 percent of
    Obama supporters contributed money online while 6 percent of McCain supporters did. The online gap between the two candidates was evident throughout the campaign cycle.

    But what's striking to some is that while the number of people who consider the Internet as a major source of campaign news more than doubled since 2000 -- from 11 to 16 percent -- television remains the dominant news medium. Nearly 80 percent of those surveyed got most of their campaign news from television, with cable news shows associated with their own political slants (the liberal MSNBC and the conservative FOX News) edging the news networks and CNN.

    "Reading the report, what struck me is the movement of reading news online and watching news on TV and online that agree with you, this increase partisanship that we're seeing," said Morley Winograd, co-author of "Millennial Makeover: MySpace, YouTube, and the Future of American Politics" and a fellow at NDN, a liberal think tank that has focused on the impact of new media in politics. "This is just the nature of the political era we're living in."

    Look for yourself at the coverage of the Tax Day Tea Parties, in cable in TV (MSNBC v. FOX) and online (the liberal DailyKos.com vs. the conservativeRedState.com).

    According to Pew Internet, 26 percent of online news consumers said they typically seek out political information online from sites that share their point of view in 2004. Four years later, that figure is up to 33 percent, at least one-third.

    This is one in a series of online columns on our growing "clickocracy," in which we are one nation under Google, with e-mail and video for all. Please send suggestions, comments and tips to vargasj@washpost.com.

    Posted at 5:55 PM ET on Apr 15, 2009  | Category:  The Clickocracy
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    I say hooray! Using the internet is my chief source of getting political news unfiltered by those who would want to overly influnence my beliefs.

    For the first time in contemporary American politics, participatory democracy has some meaning. Why? 'Little' folks are not barred as previously from information usually available to the 'well heeled' in our communities, they can get the information needed right at home, as I am doing now.
    Wonderful! www.vernasmith.com

    Posted by: Victoria5 | April 16, 2009 1:28 AM

    This indicated how fast the Information Technology (IT) has developed in the world. Sad to say, this is not developed that speed in developing country, like Nepal. IT is part and parcel of our daily life, like food, clothes and shelter. Nowadays, water, electricity and IT included as essential items for our survival. IT is not possible without electricity. We have 16 hours power cut a day - called load shedding. We, the Nepalese, are way backward than other countries. I am using my laptop battery to write this note, it can not sustain for a long hours.

    Posted by: whatisthat | April 16, 2009 1:10 AM

    Posted by: scrivener50 | April 15, 2009 11:08 PM

    Why WaPo.com;

    I believe your Stock is Rising! ;~)

    Posted by: SAINT---The | April 15, 2009 6:09 PM

    I'm using my iPhone to post this comment.

    Posted by: JakeD | April 15, 2009 6:03 PM

    The comments to this entry are closed.

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