We've already observed in New Hampshire this month that there's something to be said for tried-and-true techniques like handshaking and baby-kissing--as opposed to MySpace "friending"--in winning a presidential race.
Now there's some data to back up the premise that the Internet is playing a growing, but still not yet dominant, role in the drama-filled 2008 contest.
Specifically, more Americans are still "learning something" about this year's presidential campaigns by watching television news and--gasp--reading the daily newspaper than by surfing the Web, according to a new report released Thursday by the Pew Research Center. (The quadrennial survey, conducted during the last week of December, reached 1,430 adults.)
Still, the Internet could break out of underdog media status as time goes on.
The share of Americans who say they "regularly learn something" about the presidential contenders from the Internet jumped to 24 percent for this election cycle, nearly double the 13 percent figure when that question was asked during the 2004 race. In 2000, the level of use was even more miniscule, at 9 percent.
And for the 18-29 demographic, perhaps unsurprisingly, the numbers are vastly different: some 42 percent of respondents said they're learning about presidential campaigns online, which outnumbers all other news sources. Cable news networks came in second for that age group, at 35 percent.
Social-networking Web sites are also picking up some of the politically-interested set, but again, the user base is mostly composed of the 18-29 age range, of which about one-quarter professed to have gotten political information from the likes of MySpace and Facebook.
A word to the wise for office seekers with their own profile pages, though: Two-thirds of the 18- to 29-year-olds surveyed by Pew said they use social-networking sites, but only 8 percent said they'd "friended" a candidate.
Perhaps more popular than social-networking sites has been the advent of online video. Nearly one quarter of all the survey respondents, regardless of age, said they had seen something in video form about a campaign online--be it a commercial, speech, debate, or interview. The numbers were highest in the 18-29 and 30-39 age groups.
Besides the Internet, the only information source that gained a significant share of devotees between the 2000 and 2008 elections was National Public Radio, which saw its listenership climb from 12 to 18 percent.
All of the other news sources listed on the survey--ranging from morning TV shows to talk radio to news magazines--stayed fairly constant or even dipped a bit over those election cycles. Local television held the top spot as far as popularity goes, with 40 percent of the interviewees saying they get their political information there.