Pew Internet has just released “The Internet's Role in Campaign 2008,” a comprehensive study of the internet’s role in the 2008 election. What is most illuminating about the report is the difference between Republican and Democratic internet use. For example, McCain supporters were more likely to be internet users than Obama backers, as there’s a much higher segment of politically active Republican internet users. 84 percent of Republicans go online, compared to 71 percent of Democrats who do so. The percentage of Democrats who participated in or gathered information about the 2008 campaign was smaller than the percentage of Republicans.
“Democratic voters are less likely to go online and to be online political users than Republicans, but the Democrats who engage in the online political process do so more intensely than their GOP counterparts.”
There are more Democrats in the US than Republicans, though, so Democrats make up 36 percent of the US internet population, while 25 percent of those online are Republican.
Democrats were more likely to visit political blogs than Republicans, and Obama supporters and independents were more likely to visit non-US sites to get an international perspective on the issues.
While 26 percent of Democratic and independent voters visited satire sites like The Onion or The Daily Show, only 10 percent of Republicans did.
Politically, the internet is becoming less neutral: there’s been about a 10 percent shift in readers from non-partisan news sites to partisan ones since 2004. Overall, the size of the political news audience – across all media – has doubled since 2000.
One quick word about the youth of today. What really ultimately comes out of the study is not so much how vastly the political process has changed since 2004, but how it’s Millenials who led the way in using the game-breaking the technologies that helped get Obama into office.