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Internet became dominant force in 2008 election

By Jimmy Orr / April 15, 2009

A new study released today found that more than half the voting-age population used the internet to connect to the political process during an election cycle.

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Hey, you know the series of tubes?

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When it came to last year's campaign, people used it -- a lot.

For long-time Internet users, today's news that more than half of the U.S. adult population went online to participate in the 2008 election may seem like no big deal.

Like, where else would you find out about the candidates? The newspaper?

Historic

But, according to a report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, the fact that 55 percent of American adults accessed the Internet to find out about candidates, donate money, read articles (like this blog) , is historic.

Specifically, the study found that:

• Nearly one in five (18 percent) of all Internet users posted their thoughts, comments or questions about the campaign on an online forum such as a blog or social networking site.

• Fully 45 percent went online to watch a video related to the campaign.

• One in three Internet users forwarded political content to others.

• Young voters were "heavily'' engaged in the political debate on social networking sites.

• Fully 83 percent of the youngest adults -- ages 18-24 -- have a social networking profile, and two-thirds of them took part in some form of political activity on these sites in 2008.

Growing

The report said the Internet is "now equal to newspapers and roughly twice as important as radio as a source of election news and information.''

Again, to those plugged in, this may seem rudimentary. But not everyone's online, yet. And television is still number one.

McCain

What's interesting is that the study found McCain voters were more likely to go online first. Why?

"McCain supporters and Republicans in general have higher amounts of education and income than Democrats – and those are two of the strongest predictors of internet use," the report reads.

Obama

But, and this isn't surprising, the online Obama supporters were much more web savvy.

"Obama voters were more likely to share online political content with others, sign up for updates about the election, donate money to a candidate online, set up political news alerts and sign up online for volunteer activities related to the campaign," the report reads. "Online Obama voters were also out in front when it came to posting their own original political content online--26% of wired Obama voters did this, compared with 15% of online McCain supporters."

Convenience

Of the many advantages the Internet enjoys, convenience may be at the top of the list. You could access information about a candidate or issue at any time. So although TV is still the big Kahuna, if you missed something on television you could rely on political sites to have the clip or tell you how to think.

The report finds that "politically-active internet users are moving away from news sites with no point of view to sites that match their political views, and this is especially true among younger voters."

Ha ha

Think of the entertainment value during the campaign. For those who loved the campaign season, the Internet was Christmas -- every single day.

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