US voters consuming more news sites, but less variety of opinion

While it’s no surprise that the Internet was a major player in the 2008 US election, I’m excited to receive a new Pew Internet & American Life study on the subject.

Here are the stats that caught my eye:

  • First time that more than half of the voting-age population used the internet to get involved in the political process during an election year.
  • Nearly one in five (18%) internet users posted their thoughts, comments or questions about the campaign online.
  • 45% of internet users went online to watch a video related to the campaign.
  • One in three internet users forwarded political content to others.
  • 83% of those age 18-24 have a social networking profile, and two-thirds of young profile owners took part in some form of political activity on these sites in 2008.
  • Nearly half of online political news consumers visited five or more distinct types of online news sites this election cycle.
  • Voters are increasingly moving away from news sites with no point of view, and towards sites that match their own political viewpoints.
  • Demographically, McCain’s supporters were more likely to go online, however Obama’s supporters were more engaged.

55% of the US adult population went online for some reason related to the election. Almost 1/5 of Internet users posted comments/thoughts/questions related to the campaign online. A third of users forwarded political content to others and almost half of users watched an online video related to the campaign (granted, more than 10 million tuned in for Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin skit on SNL.)

What I found the most interesting was that a) almost half of “online political news consumers” visited 5+ news sites, and then that b) voters are trending away from objective news sites towards those that match their personal positions. I was originally excited to hear that users were considering multiple sources, rather than sticking with the same-network-evening-news-every-night approach, but if they are just reading a version of “you are right” over and over, they are probably actually getting more biased coverage than ever.

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