Internet use doubles in White House race: Survey

Sixty-five percent of Obama supporters said they followed politics online, compared to 56 percent of McCain supporters.

Internet use doubles in White House race: Survey
The Internet now plays a central role in U.S. politics, with nearly half of all Americans using the Web and other new media to follow the presidential campaign, says a study released on Sunday.

Some 17 percent of all adults said they daily scoured political websites, read campaign e-mails and text messages, or otherwise used the Internet to keep up with the election, the Pew Internet and American Life Project found.

That's more than double the 8 percent of adults who followed on the Internet daily at the same point in the 2004 race. The figure is likely to grow even more by the November election, said Lee Rainie, the nonprofit group's director.

"We've seen an evolution of the Internet and its role in politics that has been pretty striking," Rainie said.

Supporters of Democratic candidate Barack Obama and John McCain, his Republican rival, showed similar rates of Internet use, the study found.

But the study pointed to a Democratic edge. Sixty-five percent of Obama supporters said they followed politics online, compared to 56 percent of McCain supporters.

The nonprofit group polled 2,251 adults in April and May. The study has a margin of error of 2 percentage points.

The Internet has played a growing role in presidential races since 1996, when Republican challenger Bob Dole gave out the wrong address for his Web site during a debate with Democratic President Bill Clinton.

McCain pioneered online fund-raising in the 2000 race, and in 2004 Howard Dean rode the blogosphere to the front of the Democratic field before fizzling out.

Facebook, myspace

Online video sites like YouTube and social networks like Facebook and MySpace have emerged as important media in the 2008 race.

The Pew survey found that 35 percent of Americans have watched online political videos, while 10 percent have used social networks to become involved in the campaign.

Obama has used social networks to recruit thousands of volunteers, especially among younger voters who in previous elections have been difficult to reach by other means.

He has also raised tens of millions of dollars in campaign funds over the Internet, mostly in small donations from masses of individual backers.

Obama claims 1.35 million "friends," or supporters, on MySpace and Facebook, compared to McCain's 197,000, according to TechPresident, a website that tracks Internet use in the campaign.

Key elements of Obama's constituency -- young voters, black voters and affluent voters -- showed the highest growth rates in online news consumption, the Pew study found. Blacks were more than twice as likely to keep up with the campaign online than in 2004.

Democrats are also more likely to use social networks, watch online videos, donate to campaigns online, sign up for campaign-related e-mail and bypass news outlets to get information directly from campaigns, the study found.

David All, a 29-year-old Republican communications consultant who launched the realworldrepublicans.com website this weekend, said his party needed to embrace new technologies.

The Republican Party risks losing an entire generation of voters because they aren't investing in new media like text messaging, All said.

"We've got an entire generation that is trying to change the world in 160 characters or less," he said, referring to the maximum length of cell phone text messages. "The problem with that is Republicans aren't giving those folks anything to put out."

Reuters
Last Mod: 16 Haziran 2008, 11:37
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