Fueled by increased viewing of online political videos and the use of social networks to gather campaign data and online donations for candidates, use of the Internet in this year's election cycle is shattering records, according to a study released this week.
A record-breaking 46% of Americans have used the Internet, email or cell phone text messaging to get news about a campaign or to share their views, according to the "The Internet and the 2008 Election" report compiled by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. So far, according to the report, supporters of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) are using online tools for election matters more often that those of rival Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
At this point in the 2004 election cycle, 31% of Americans had used the Internet to get political news and information. The reported noted that the difference between the elections is more than the total number of Americans who used the Internet during the entire 2004 campaign for political information, according to the report. "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 report said.
After the 2004 race, for example, 13% of adults said they had watched an online video of any kind about the campaign or election. This year, 35% of the 2,200-plus Internet users surveyed reported that they watched an online political video.
At this point in the current campaign, 8% of Internet users have donated money to a candidate online; only 3% of Internet users said they had done this when asked in the fall of 2006. In addition, 10% of them said they have used a social network like Facebook or MySpace to gather political information or to become involved with a campaign.
Among younger votes, two-thirds of Internet users younger than 30 have a social networking profile, and half of those said they use social networks to get or share political information, the report said.
Further, 39% of online Americans have used the Internet to access "unfiltered" campaign materials like video of candidate debates, speeches and announcements or candidate position papers. The study also found a significant growth of user generated content compared to the first time Pew asked this type of question in the 2006 mid-term elections.