E-Communications Play Important Role in 2008 Political Campaign

E-Communications Play Important Role in 2008 Political Campaign

Following up on politics following yesterday's Research Brief, a new PEW study reported by Aaron Smith and Lee Rainie, "The Internet and the 2008 Election," shows that a record-breaking 46% of Americans have used the internet, email or cell phone text messaging to get news about the campaign, share their views and mobilize others.

In addition, says the memo report, three online activities have become especially prominent as the presidential primary campaigns have progressed:

  • 35% of Americans say they have watched online political videos, triple that in the 2004 race
  • 10% say they have used social networking sites such as Facebook or MySpace to gather information or become involved. Two-thirds of internet users under the age of 30 have a social networking profile, and half of these use social networking sites to get or share information about politics or the campaigns
  • 6% of Americans have made political contributions online, compared with 2% who did that during the entire 2004 campaign

Large numbers of Americans are not only going online to learn about the campaigns, but are also taking an active role in promoting online conversations about politics and spreading news and information about their candidate of choice or the race in general, says the full text report:

  • 40% of all Americans (internet users and non-users alike) have gotten news and information about this year's campaign via the internet
  • 19% of Americans go online once a week or more to do something related to the campaign, and 6% go online to engage politically on a daily basis
  • 23% of Americans say they receive emails urging them to support a candidate or discuss the campaign once a week or more
  • 10% of Americans use email to contribute to the political debate with a similar frequency

And, while text messaging has not yet equaled the internet or email as a widespread political tool, one in ten text messaging users (representing 4% of all adults) are sending or receiving text messages about the campaign or other political issues on a regular basis.

More Americans have gone online to get political news and campaign information so far than during all of 2004. Moreover, the proportion of Americans getting political news and information on any given day in the spring of 2008 has more than doubled compared with a similar period in 2004.

The Growth of Political News Consumption (% of all adults who look online for news or information about the campaign)


Spring 2000

Fall 2000

Spring 2004

Fall 2004

Spring 2008







On a typical day






Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project Spring 2008 Survey, June 2008

Two new internet activities have stormed the political stage: 35% of Americans have watched online videos related to the campaign, and 10% have used social networking sites to engage in political activity, notes the report. Fully 39% of internet users (29% of all adults) have gone online to read or watch "unfiltered" campaign material, which includes candidate debates, speeches/announcements, position papers, and speech transcripts.

Despite the increased use of online sources in the political debate, wired Americans have mixed views about the overall impact of the internet on politics. Large numbers feel that the internet is a megaphone for extreme viewpoints and a source of misinformation for many voters.

Internet Users' Views About The General Role Of The Internet In Politics (% of internet users who agree/disagree with the following statements)




The internet is full of misinformation and propaganda that too many voters believe is accurate



The news and information you get online is just the same as you can get anywhere else



The internet lets those with the loudest voices and most extreme positions drown out average people's views



The internet helps me feel more personally connected to my candidate or campaign of choice



I would not be as involved in this campaign as much if it weren't for the internet



Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project Spring 2008 Survey, June 2008

The results in this report are based on a sample of 2,251 adults, age 18 and older conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International between April 8 to May 11, 2008.


To read the Memo Report and access the PDF study file, please visit PEW here.



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