Americans Click Their Way Toward Elections

A pair of new reports from the Pew Internet & American Life Project and Burst! Media, demonstrate more Americans are using the Internet (both passively and interactively) during this election cycle than ever before.

The Burst! study reveals 32.4 percent of likely voters have clicked on a political Web ad during the current presidential campaign. Those who did click were active beyond the clickthrough by a wide majority (72.4 percent). They went on to read additional information about the candidate’s platform, among other post-click activities, including signing up for news alerts (44.5 percent); making a donation (31.8 percent); even volunteering to work on the campaign (21 percent).

Post Click Activities
Read information about the
candidate’s platform on issues
66.2% 72.4%
Sent an automated message
to an elected official
Signed up to receive email alerts 41.6% 44.5%
Signed an online petition 40.9%
Watched a video ad 35.2% 42.8%
Signed up and became a member 30.1%
Made an online donation 23.6% 31.8%
Signed up to volunteer 13.5% 21.0%
Source: BURST! Research, September 2004, n=1,486 Likely Voters

Demographics of those visiting candidate’s sites are skewed toward Americans 35 and older. Only 35 percent of voters 18-24 visited a candidate’s site, compared to over half of those over 35.

“If they’re not going to Web sites — and we know they don’t consume traditional media in the same quantities as the past — then where are they turning for information?” Chuck Moran, market research manager at Burst!, told ClickZ. “I think the finding reinforces the fact that younger age segments continue to rely on the personal network of friends/family to gather information and help make decisions.”

A new study from Pew, in collaboration with the University of Michigan School of Information, reveals 31 percent of US broadband users turn to the Internet as their main source of campaign news. Newspapers led by a slim 35 percent margin. Numbers for dialup users are a bit wider, with 16 percent citing the Internet as their main source, as opposed to newspapers at 39 percent. Both dialup and broadband users overwhelming cite TV as their primary sources of campaign news (72 percent).

People’s Main Sources
Of Campaign News Over Time
Television 78% 78% 86%
Newspaper 38% 38% 36%
Radio 16% 15% 14%
Internet and email
(including listservs)
15% 13% 7%
Magazines 4% 2% 4%
Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project, June 2004
survey of 1,510 Americans adults (age 18 and older).
Numbers add to more than 100 due to multiple responses.

On the whole, Pew has found the number of online Americans who have gone online to get campaign information doubled since the 2000 presidential campaign, and is now over 40 percent. The sites online Americans visit for campaign information are somewhat varied. Most Internet users (59 percent) get their online news from established organizations like CNN (broadband users, 72 percent; dialup, 51 percent). International news services are less popular, coming in at 18 percent of all Internet users. Alternative, more partisan news sites are visited by 16 percent of users. Drawn across party lines, 29 percent of Bush backers have visited a non-mainstream media site, compared to 36 percent of Kerry supporters.

Americans’ Main Sources of Campaign
News by Relationship to Internet
Broadband at
home users
Dial-up from
home users
Television 72% 72% 89%
Newspaper 35% 39% 40%
Radio 15% 18% 12%
Internet and email 31% 16% 1%
Magazines 4% 6% 2%
Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project, June 2004 survey of 1,510 Americans
adults (age 18 and older). Numbers add to more than 100 due to multiple responses.

The Pew study found 18 percent of Americans say they prefer media sources that challenge their point of view. Burst’s study had similar findings, noting 56.6 percent of likely voters visited the site of an advocacy group or a candidate they don’t support.

The Kinds of Web Sites People Use to
Get Political News and Information
Web site of major news organizations,
such as
72% 51%
Web site of an international news site
such as al Jazeera
24% 14%
Web site of alternative news site like or
16% 7%
Web site of politically liberal group
such as People for the American Way
15% 7%, the Democratic nominee’s
official site
14% 8%, the president’s
official re-election site
13% 7%, the official site of the
Republican National Committee
11% 5%
Web site of a politically conservative
group such as the American Enterprise
Institute or the Christian Coalition
10% 11%, the official site of the
Democratic National Committee
6% 6%
Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project, June 2004 survey.
N= 398 for broadband users and n=524 for dial-up internet users (age 18 and older).

“So this notion that everyone is organizing their lives only to get information that reinforces what they already believe isn’t borne out by just the media preferences that people talk about,” Pew Director Lee Rainie told ClickZ. “It’s a stunning finding, and fits in with this larger story that Americans are hardly shying away from things they disagree with.”

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