A recent study from the Pew Internet and American Life Project assigned some concrete numbers to what most of us expected: 46% of Americans have used the internet, e-mail or text messaging to get news about the campaign, share their views and mobilize others.
The internet certainly makes it easier for people to get involved, check voting records, verify candidates’ claims, organize themselves and, perhaps most importantly, influence others. People use the web to forward comments and videos, donate money, feel more personally invested in the campaign and organize on a grassroots level.
The internet being the internet, however, also means that mis- and disinformation is magnified along with every gaffe and misstatement. What struck me was that the level of engagement almost doubled from 2004 during the primary season (8% of adults in Spring 2004 compared to 17% of adults in Spring 2008) , traditionally a time when only the most hardcore voters seem to be paying attention.
A few highlights:
- 40% of all Americans (internet users and non-internet users) have gotten news and information about this year’s campaign via the internet
- 35% of Americans say they have watched online political videos, nearly triple the figure of 2004
- 10% say they have used social networking sites like Facebook or MySpace to gather information or become involved
- 6% of Americans have made political contributions online
And many users are digging deeper to circumvent the mainstream media and their soundbite driven business model to more fully form their own opinions about Messrs. McCain and Obama.
Greater involvement is great for the republic. So we’ll leave the predictions about Election Day chaos for another day.