by Diann Daniel

Obama or Hilary, McCain or Huckabee? Americans Turning to Web for Info on Presidential Race

Jan 14, 20083 mins

TV is still the most popular source of campaign news and information, but the Internet is gaining ground.n

To find out the latest news on Hilary versus Obama or which candidate to vote for, Americans are increasingly turning to the Internet. So says a survey by The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

Twenty-four percent of Americans point to the Internet as a regular source of presidential campaign information. That number is up dramatically from 2000, when just 9 percent of Americans regularly visited the Internet for campaign information, and almost double what it was in 2004 (13 percent).

The survey backs a common assumption that the Internet is gaining ground over television and other traditional media outlets. The use of traditional media outlets as a campaign information source has mostly declined or remained static since 2000. In 2000, 48 percent of Americans said they regularly learn something about the presidential race from their local TV news; that number has dropped to 40 percent. Such a decline was even more marked for nightly network news, which dropped from 45 percent in 2000 to 32 percent. And daily newspapers fell from 40 percent in 2000 to 31 percent this year. On the other hand, morning news shows have gained ground, up from 18 percent as an information source in 2000 to 22 percent now. NPR has also jumped to 18 percent from 12 percent in 2000.

The survey also highlights the Internet’s centrality in the lives of Gen Y. Forty-two percent of adults 18 to 30 regularly learn something about the presidential campaign from the Internet. In contrast, for Americans 31 to 49, that number is 26 percent; for adults over 50, just 15 percent.

The use of social networking sites has also cropped up as source of campaign information. Twenty-seven percent of those younger than 30 have gotten campaign information from Facebook, MySpace or another social networking site; breaking it down further, 37 percent of 18-to-24 year olds have gotten information in this way. On the other hand, just 4 percent of those in their 30s and 1 percent of those 40 or older have gotten campaign information through social networking sites.

YouTube and other video-sharing sites have also become an important source of campaign information for some younger Americans. Forty-one percent of those under 30 have watched at least one campaign video online, compared with 20 percent of those ages 30 and older.

Despite the Internet’s increasing importance in presidential campaign races, at least some of that power seems to be a byproduct of the Internet’s general popularity. More than half (52 percent) of Internet users “come across” campaign news and information when they are going online to do something else.

Results are based on responses of 1,430 adults who were surveyed in December 2007.