Americans Plug Into Internet for Election Info

More than a third of Americans are turning to the Internet for information about the elections next week, according to a poll released by the Associated Press and America Online last Friday.

The telephone survey showed that 35 percent of Americans are using the Internet to get information about the upcoming elections.

That number was even higher among likely voters, of whom 43 percent said they were connecting to the Web for election info.

High Anger Level

Self-described Liberals (51 percent) were more likely to tap into the Net for election info than moderates (42 percent) and conservatives (39 percent), according to the tally of 2,000 adults and 970 likely voters conducted by Ipsos, an international public opinion polling company. The margin of error for the poll was 2.2 percent for adults and 3.1 percent for likely voters.

The step up in Internet use by liberals shown in the poll surprised Kathleen Hayden, a senior producer at AOL News. “I might have said that shift has happened since the 2004 election, but to see it quantified like that is a bit surprising,” she told the E-Commerce Times.

She noted that liberals have shown an increased level of activism and passion this year that’s manifesting itself at political sites on the Web. “They’re showing more of a vested interest in how this election goes,” she said. “There’s a high level of anger.”

Liberals Get Web 2.0

“A couple of years ago, it really did seem as though conservatives had figured out the Internet for political uses better than liberals had,” Dan Kennedy, an assistant journalism professor at Northeastern University in Boston told the E-Commerce Times. “But it does seem like liberals have come roaring up to speed in the last couple of years.”

He added that liberal political sites tend to cultivate community while conservative Web posts lean toward a single voice. “Conservative use of the Internet tends to be more Web 1.0 and the liberals have gotten more Web 2.0,” he observed.

Pollsters also discovered more men (49 percent) than women (38 percent) are getting their election info online. That discrepancy may be connected to differences in how the sexes gather information, according to Chuck Moran, research manager at BurstMedia, an online marketing consultancy in Burlington, Mass.

Although women and men are online in roughly the same numbers, he explained to the E-Commerce Times, women tend to gather information by going to more resources than men.

“Women take more inputs,” he said. “They’ll go to family and friends; they’ll go to television, newspapers, magazines, the Internet. Men tend to be a little more directed and go to just one resource.”

Web Better Than Other Media

Earlier this month, BurstMedia released its own poll on voter interaction with the Internet. That survey, based on interviews with 900 likely voters, gave the Internet high marks as a place for the low-down on elections.

It found that more voters (26.8 percent) picked the Net as the best place to learn about a candidate’s position on election issues or to research general election issues, compared to television (20.5 percent); newspapers (17.8 percent); radio (6.6 percent); pamphlets, brochures and direct mail (5.4 percent); and magazines (2.8 percent).

“I’m not using the Internet for information,” Mary Ann Furrie, 61, a voter in Racine, Wisc., told the E-Commerce Times. “I already read two daily newspapers, listen to non-Fox network radio and TV (mostly public radio) and read books.

“I don’t particularly trust political information coming from most Internet sources, unless it is a mainstream newspaper,” she added.

Scary Differences

H. Kennedy Hudner, 56, a voter in Glastonbury, Conn., noted that he has been using news sites on the Internet to get info on the election, although he admitted he is wary of much of what he eyeballs in Cyberspace.

“I am mildly skeptical about every news site I go to, which is why I make a point of viewing several different ones per day,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “The differences in reporting can be scary at times.”

That skepticism was shared by another voter, Jean Grams, 48, of St. Paul, Minn. “I tend to be more skeptical of info I view on the Web versus what I read in hard-copy simply because it is so easy to create a site and post anything,” she contended.

“And if a topic is complex and the content fits on a page — which is great for user interaction — then my skepticism goes up a few notches,” Grams added.

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