A new survey by the Pew Research Center demonstrates the Internet’s emerging influence on politics and media. While it is no surprise the Internet is affecting how politicians communicate, some of the survey’s results are striking and may force Members of Congress and candidates to adapt new media policies even quicker than expected.
During the 2010 campaign season, 54 percent of all American adults went online to get news or information regarding campaigns, according to the Pew survey. Online initiatives are categorized as obtaining political news online, going online to take part in specific political activities, or leveraging Twitter or social media sites for political purposes.
The Internet’s emergence is even starker when comparing statistics to past surveys. People watching campaign-related videos online jumped from 19 percent in 2006 to 31 percent in 2010. In addition, only 16 percent of adult Internet users utilized social media sites in 2006, while 60 percent did in 2010. Lastly, 24 percent of adults got a majority of their campaign news from the Internet, a three-fold increase from 2002. Adults ages 18-49 leveraged the Internet more than newspapers and radio to obtain political news during the 2010 elections.
Another Pew Research Center study, examining how people obtain local news and information, continues to demonstrate media’s extraordinary transformation. The “How Mobile Devices are Changing Community Information Environments” study finds that 47 percent of American adults report they have received some local news and information from their cellphone or tablet device.
Pew’s statistics demonstrate the need for political press professionals to critically evaluate their media priorities. As radio and newspapers succumb to the rise of Internet news sources, blog interviews and online chats with supporters may take precedence over radio interviews and Sunday editorial columns. Politicians will have to evaluate their local media to determine the best avenue to reach constituents, but must ensure Internet-based outlets are part of the equation.