Republicans may have won a landslide victory at the polls this fall, but when it comes to using cell phones to connect politically, voters were evenly split along party lines. That's among the main findings from a new study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project on politics and mobile use in the wake of the mid-term election.
Among people using mobile phones to share election-related information in 2010, their votes went equally to Democratic and Republican congressional candidates, at 44% for each side. The political preferences within this group were a bit different but in line with the general population: 27% say they're Republican, 35% Democrat, and 32% independent.
The partisan divide was further underscored by mobile users' views about one of the political season's most salient movements: the Tea Party. About a third (34%) said they agreed or strongly agreed with the Tea Party and 32% disagreed or strongly disagreed with its goals.
Overall, about a quarter (26%) of adult U.S. mobile users turned to their phones to keep up with the election and politics and pursue related activities. Those actions included using cell phones to tell other people they had voted (15%), send text messages about the election (10%), monitor election results (4%), and use a politically oriented app (2%).
Since this was the first time the Pew Research Center had asked about mobile use in a mid-term election, it had no comparable data. But in 2008, it found that 29% of text messagers had traded texts with others or with candidates, their campaigns, or other groups.
Demographically, the mobile political user group skews more male than female, young than old, better off financially than less well-off, and better educated than less well-educated. African-Americans are also more likely than whites or Hispanics to be part of this segment.
Not surprisingly, younger users were especially likely to extend political activities to mobile devices. For instance, 58% of those 18 to 29 used their phones to tell others they had voted, compared to 30% of 30- to-49-year-olds and 10% of those 65 and over.
Because Democratic supporters tend to be younger than Republicans, there were also a few areas where those voting Democratic were more likely to engage in campaign-related activities on cell phones. For example, 36% of Democrat backers told others they had voted via mobile phone, compared with 24% on the Republican side.
About a fifth of people (21%) who used their phones to participate politically ended up not voting in the election. Overall, 71% of cell phone owners said they voted in the 2010 election, compared with 64% of the full adult population in the survey who said they voted. Since the actual turnout was 40%, Pew noted that in post-election surveys it's common for a greater number of people to say they voted than was actually the case.
The study's findings were based on a survey of 2,257 adults conducted in November.