Although voters in early primary states say they have found news coverage and presidential debates helpful, voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina express a somewhat negative view of campaign commercials.
Just over half of New Hampshire voters say candidates' commercials have been not too helpful--or not at all helpful--compared with 43% of likely voters in Iowa, and 41% in South Carolina. Nationally, 65% say commercial messages have fallen short.
Aside from television commercials, marketing messages from candidates' Web sites, online video clips at Google's YouTube, and social networks such as Facebook and MySpace are hitting voters loud and clear, although many have mixed views about the messages.
In this first presidential campaign since the rise of social networking sites, about 7% of primary voters across the country say they have visited one social network site to get information on the candidates or to sign up as a friend.
About 28% of all likely primary voters across the country say they have watched online video clips about candidates or election. Voters in Iowa--31%--and New Hampshire--29%--also report watching political video clips. Fewer voters--23%--have done so in South Carolina. Thirty percent in Iowa, and 29% in New Hampshire say they have visited candidate Web sites, compared with 16% in South Carolina, and 17% nationally have accessed candidate Web sites.
More surprising to Scott Keeter, director of survey research at Pew Research Center, was "the enormous percentage of Iowans who say they were personally contacted by some working for one of the campaigns."
Eight in 10 Iowa Democrats and Republicans say they have received phone calls about the 2008 campaign. Nearly two-thirds have been called by actual people, compared with about half of Republicans. In South Carolina, it's closer to one-fifth for members of both parties.
Both Democratic and Republican voters say they have been contacted by the presidential campaigns in less personal ways--traditional mail about one or more of the candidates, or pre-recorded phone calls. In both Iowa and New Hampshire, roughly 4 in 10 likely voters consider recorded calls a minor annoyance, while 5% in Iowa and 9% in New Hampshire say the calls make them angry.
People say they were more polite with live callers. More than half of potential voters receiving these calls say they hung up the phone when they heard a recorded message, compared with between one and two of every 10 potential voters hanging up the phone when receiving a call from a live person.
"I don't see too much backlash from the heavy campaigning, which reflects a sense that winnowers in the field who intend to participate in the primaries are taking their role seriously," Keeter says.
The Pew study also suggests voters have been seeking out campaign activity. About 45% of Iowa and 28% of New Hampshire Democrats say they have attended campaign events. Among Republicans, 28% from Iowa and 20% from New Hampshire have done so, compared with 1 in 10 South Carolinians.
Study results are based on random telephone interviews conducted Nov. 7-25 with 724 likely Republican and Democratic voters in the Iowa caucuses, 1,040 likely voters in New Hampshire's primary, and 841 likely voters in South Carolina primary.