Once Barack Obama started Twittering, John McCain created a MySpace page, and Hillary Clinton joined Facebook, it became apparent that the 2008 presidential election was relying heavily on social media. But now, a Pew survey has the numbers to prove it, concluding that 46 percent of Americans have used the Internet for politics so far this election season, with topics like Obama and online videos taking a front seat.
Earlier this spring, the surveyors contacted 2,251 Americans to find out how they are using the Web to investigate and communicate about the election. The survey results found that almost half are turning to the Web to get information about the presidential race. That's a significant jump from the spring of the 2004 election, when only one-third of adults said they looked online for election news.
Several of the conclusions show numbers doubling or tripling from the last presidential election season. One of these was in the area of online political videos. In 2004, only 13 percent of adults said they watched online videos concerning the election, but this year, already 35 percent use sites like YouTube for partisan information. And people aren't just watching campaign ads, but seeking out primary sources like recorded speeches.
Young Democrats and Obama supporters reportedly lead the wave of political blogging and researching, with 74 percent of Internet-using Obama supporters logging on to follow the campaign, compared with Clinton's 57 percent and McCain's 56 percent.
And young voters are using the Web in different ways than other generations. The study found that young voters are consuming more political online video than older adults, while creating their own political commentary with posts, e-mails, text messages, and social-networking sites. One-third of all 18- to 29-year-old adults used a social-networking site for political activities like adding candidates as their friends.
Despite the statistics on increasing Internet usage, the Pew study concluded 74 percent of users said they would be just as involved in the campaign without using the Internet, a result that was also highlighted in a Pew report this January.