Internet Now Key Force In American Politics, Pew Survey Finds
(March 7, 2005) -- The internet became a key force in American politics in 2004 as fully 75 million Americans -- 37% of the adult population and 61% of online Americans -- used the web to get political news and information, discuss candidates and debate issues in emails, or participate directly in the political process by volunteering or giving contributions to candidates.
"Last year was a breakout year for the internet in politics" says a report released (online, of course) March 6 by the Washington, D.C. based Pew Internet & American Life Project and the Pew Research Center for The People & The Press, whose survey says the online political news consumer population has grown to 29% of the U.S. population (up from 18% just four years earlier).
"For online Americans, the internet is now a more important source of campaign news and
information than radio: 28% of internet users cited the internet as a prime source of
campaign news compared to 17% of them who cited radio. For those with broadband at
home (a group comprising 27% of the overall U.S. population) the internet rivals
newspapers as a major source of campaign news and information: 38% of those with
broadband at home cited the internet as a major source of political news, compared to
36% of them who cited newspapers," the survey found.
People cited convenience as the main reason they get political news online...but more than half like the internet because they say they can get information online that is not available elsewhere and because they do not get all the information they need from traditional news sources.
In 2004, LBReport.com made local media history as the only outlet to provide LB residents with access to a League of Women Voters debate in the closely watched Karnette vs. Kuykendall Assembly race. The cutting edge coverage was sponsored by the LB Area Chamber of Commerce...which maintains a sophisticated local political/advocacy web site at www.longbeachadvocacy.biz.
During the 2004 LB City Council election cycle, LBHUSH2 founder Rae Gabelich launched a candidate web site and used it effectively, circumventing traditional media outlets and helping defeat an incumbent who had considerable establishment backing.
The Pew survey found:
As the online political news consumer population has grown and come to more closely reflect the entire internet-using population, the preferences and needs of this audience have changed. In the early days of online politics, when the online audience was quite elite and highly politically engaged, online news consumers liked the internet most
because it provided information from non-traditional sources. As the audience has
become bigger and more mainstream, internet users’ tastes have shifted towards a
preference for using the internet because it is convenient. It is still the case, though, that
more than half of online political news consumers say they like getting news online
because it enhances or goes beyond what they feel they get from television and
The survey also found that the "online political news audience is becoming more mainstream."
As the internet has become a popular technology adopted by a majority of American adults, its demographic character has changed and that has led to changes in people’s
motives for getting political news online and their preferences in the Web sites they
access for political news. At election time in 1996, internet adoption stood at 23% of the
U.S. population and the online political news audience was disproportionately male,
white, and relatively well-to-do. By 2004, the internet population had grown to 61% of
the adult population and that changed the profile of the online political news consumer
population to include higher proportions of women, older Americans, and rural residents.