A study released Monday from research firms Nucleus Research and KnowledgeStorm show that 72% of the 383 survey participants report traditional media, such as print media and broadcast television, remain primary sources for political information, and more than 56% cite these mediums as the most trusted sources. The study conducted in June suggests only 19% rely on candidates' Web sites as a source of information.
Web media may not influence individuals to vote for a particular presidential candidate, but it does reinforce social communities behind candidates and makes it easier for candidates to rake in donations and cash, says Rebecca Wettemann, vice president/research at Nucleus Research in Wellesley, Mass. "I can get a lot of people to donate small amounts of money through sites like PayPal," she says. "This lets me tap into a donor base I may not have been able to reach before."
Aside from eBay's online payment service PayPal, Web sites like ActBlue.com, which focus on contributions for Democratic candidates, make it easy for people to give.
John Edwards has raised about one-third of his campaign money in mostly small-dollar amounts from Internet contributions. Holding the top fundraising spot on ActBlue.com, Edwards-for-president supporters committed nearly $3.4 million. Other democratic candidates haven't been as successful through the site. Barack Obama's 233 supporters raised $26,278, and New York Senator Hillary Clinton's 21 supporters raised $1,021.
"People who engage in online communities tend to be more independent or libertarian," says Anthony Citrano, political blogger and co-founder of the PopTech Conference. "If you look at Republican candidate Ron Paul, he gets enormous amounts of online publicity, but it doesn't necessarily translate into mainstream media and voting action."
Libertarian Texas congressman Ron Paul was largely ignored by those who participated in the Nucleus and KnowledgeStorm study. When asked which candidates do the best job at using the Internet, Clinton took the lead with 38%; followed by Obama, 19%; former Senator John Edwards, 9%; and Republican candidate Rudolph Giuliani, 9%.
Democratic frontrunners Obama and Clinton have attracted the most attention for using the Internet. Obama's page on social networking site MySpace.com has more then 141,000 friends, compared with Clinton's 116,000. Republican candidate Rudolph Giuliani has 6,539 friends, and Senator John McCain has 40,132. Paul has 45,635 friends on MySpace.
Wettemann says Democrats gained a lesson, both positive and negative, from Vermont's former governor Howard Dean, learning to use the Internet to their advantage. Dean demonstrated the power of the Internet in 2004 after tapping into bloggers and grassroots donors to gain attention and money for his campaign.