Internet Grows as a Source for Political News

With each passing election year, the Internet gains as a source for political and election-related news. According to “Election 2006 Online,” a post-election survey released by the Pew Internet & American Life Project and the Pew Research Center for The People & The Press, the Web served as a place for newshounds and political activists to converge.

“Most voters now expect candidates to have an active online presence — a good, interactive Web site, a button to sign-up for e-mail alerts, another to allow donations. They are also pretty interested when candidates have blogs and videos, too,” said Lee Rainie, director at Pew Internet.

More than 60 million people were classified as campaign Internet users, or people who used the Internet during the campaign season to gather information and exchange views using e-mail. The group includes 31 percent of all Americans, and 46 percent of the country’s Internet users. Campaign Internet users were more active in using the “read-write Web.” Eight percent posted political commentary to newsgroups, Web sites, or blogs; 13 percent forwarded or posted someone else’s commentary. While just 1 percent created audio and video recordings, 8 percent forwarded or posted someone else’s audio and video content online.

“The tools make it much easier to participate, create commentary and videos and share links,” said Rainie. “They seem to be yesteryear’s envelope stuffers or the people that would post banners on their lawns and show up at candidate rallies, debates, and meetings. Campaign Internet users are really politically involved.”

On a wider scale, 15 percent of all Americans used the Internet as a primary source for news during the 2006 elections. During the presidential elections in 2004, 18 percent of Americans stated the Web as a primary source for news and updates. The Internet, mixed with other media channels for news on the political elections, was used by 25 percent of all Americans, or 37 percent of Internet users. “Home broadband users are just as likely to count on the Internet as they are for newspapers to get political news. And home broadband users are notably more likely to rely on the Internet than on the radio,” the report said.

Mainstream news sources like news portals and newspaper and TV station sites were the favored online source for campaign-related articles. News portals and TV network Web sites each served 60 percent of Web traffic for campaign Internet users. Local newspapers served 48 percent of traffic, and national papers 31 percent. Another 28 percent of traffic went to Web sites for state or local governments, and 24 percent to issue-oriented Web sites.

“There is every reason to believe that the role of the Internet in politics will grow in the next election cycles in 2008, 2010 and 2012,” said Rainie. “There are exciting new ways to use the Internet to engage voters and allow them to participate in civic life.”

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