Politics Pulls Users Online

The traffic spikes to candidate sites are to be expected during the presidential election season, but Internet users are also relying on the medium as a political news and information source.

While an estimated 24.4 million viewers watched U.S. presidential candidate John Kerry’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, the nominee’s Web site was undergoing exorbitant traffic growth.

According to Nielsen//NetRatings, traffic to the John Kerry for President Web site grew 191 percent between July 25, 2004 and Aug.1, earning the distinction of being the fastest growing site for the week.

Comparatively, the Web site for the Republican National Committee experienced a 32 percent traffic swell, as American voters searched for information on the two major candidates.

Traffic to JohnKerry.com and RNC.org (U.S., Home)
Site Unique Audience
Week ending 7/25/04
Unique Audience
Week ending 8/1/04
JohnKerry.com 265,000 771,000
RNC.org 209,000 275,000
Source: Nielsen//NetRatings

Prior to the Convention, John Kerry’s Web site was already gaining traffic momentum. Kerry’s announcement of John Edwards as his running mate on July 6 sent his site from fifth place in the Hitwise politics category to the first place position. The 231 percent spike in traffic led the site to capture 10.44 percent of visits in Hitwise’s politics category.

JohnEdwards2004.com also experienced a traffic surge, rising from number 226 in the rankings on July 5 to seventh place on July 6.

Sites that aren’t directly related to the parties or the candidates are undergoing explosive growth as well. Measurements from Hitwise revealed that visits to political humor site Jibjab.com outpaced the Bush and Kerry Web sites combined, attracting more than 10 times the total number of visitors.

Jibjab.com was catapulted from relative obscurity to an enormous traffic explosion between July 3 and July 23, increasing traffic 204,520 percent and capturing more than half of all visitors to the Hitwise politics category. The site also became the 41st most popular Web site among U.S. Internet users on July 23.

Voters are increasingly turning to the Internet as a source of information about the 2004 Presidential Election. A late 2003/early 2004 joint report from Pew Research Center for The People & The Press and Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 13 percent of the surveyed Americans regularly learned about the candidates and the campaign from the Internet – up from 9 percent in 2000.

More recently, a July 2004 Pace Poll, conducted by Pace University, of 622 new registered voters revealed that 44 percent rely on the Internet as a major source of campaign information.

Newly Registered Voters Getting
“Most” or “A Lot” of Their Political
Information from These Sources
Television network news 53%
Newspapers 46%
Internet 44%
Cable news programs 41%
Television ads 29%
Late night talk shows 10%
Source:Pace Poll

In addition to accessing political news and information, Internet users are going online to make their contributions to candidates too. Of the 1,751 U.S. consumers surveyed online for The Kintera/Luth Nonprofit Trend Report, 18 percent were planning to make a political contribution in 2004, with nearly half using online methods.

The report also revealed that respondents more likely to donate to a political party or candidate in 2004 are also active in online and offline philanthropy activities.

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