Web-based Politics Struggling in the Polls

Dennis Faas's picture

It seems every polling day sees pundits hyping up "the first real Internet-era election", but the 2008 US Presidential race really has brought us close to that point.

A study of 2,251 adults suggests that 46% of Americans have followed the elections either through the Internet or via text message. That's up from around 33% in 2004. However, that figure is a little vague as it incorporates gathering information, sharing opinions and influencing others -- three activities which most likely cover very different numbers of people. (Source: cnet.com)

And yet, the study did also find 35% of adults have watched videos of the candidates online, while one in ten have used social networking sites for election-related purposes, a figure which jumps to 50% among the under-30s.

It seems web users are a cynical bunch. Just under two-thirds of those who've followed the elections online think "the Internet is full of misinformation that their fellow citizens are gullible enough to believe". That figure actually makes web users less trusting of online political content than those who don't follow web-based politics.

Despite the skepticism, 37% said the Internet helps them feel connected to the candidates, and 30% say it's made them become more politically motivated.

Barack Obama seems to be benefiting the most, with his supporters being more politically involved online than those of John McCain or Hillary Clinton (The study ran in April and May before Clinton's concession). Obama has also done particularly well with online fundraising which has proven especially valuable thanks to individual donation limits which mean getting a small amount from a wider range of people can raise more than targeting even extremely-wealthy donors.

It's likely the 2012 race will be the first where a majority of people follow the election online. It will be interesting to see how that year's candidates respond: this year, some analysts have commented that politicians are still seeing the Internet as simply an extension of television rather than a truly interactive medium. (Source: readwriteweb.com)

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