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:
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."
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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