Web Offers Fertile Ground for Politics

July 10, 1996

The World Wide Web offers political candidates an effective way to reach groups of active voters, new research suggests. More than nine out of 10 Web users responding to a recent on- line questionnaire reported they were registered to vote, while 63 percent said they had participated in the most recent local, legislative or national elections.

Those proportions are higher than for the population at large, reflecting the unique demographics of Web users.

"These numbers suggest that the Web can potentially play a significant role in politics," said Georgia Institute of Technology researcher Jim Pitkow. "The Web appears to be a viable way to distribute political information because there really are large numbers of registered voters regularly using the Web."

Questioned about their political leanings, more than 30 percent of the respondents described themselves as "moderate," while 35 percent were "liberal" or "very liberal," and 21 percent "conservative" or "very conservative." Independent of the labels, slightly more than 25 percent identified themselves as Democrats, while 21 percent called themselves Republicans.

Females were more likely than males to report being "liberal" or "very liberal." Web users over the age of 50 were nearly twice as likely (82 percent) than the youngest users (46 percent) to participate in elections.

Respondents did not confine their political activism to voting: 31 percent reported writing elected officials, 23 percent discussed political issues, and 22 percent signed petitions. Over 40 percent said they had become more politically involved since joining the on-line population.

The questions were part of GVU's Fifth World Wide Web User Survey." Conducted by Pitkow, Colleen Kehoe and other researchers at Georgia Tech's Graphics, Visualization and Usability Center, the survey also sampled the views of Web users on such issues as data privacy, fees charged for Web information, on-line shopping, the problems of Web surfing -- and who pays the bill.

Some 11,700 Web users responded to the questions posted on the Web between April 10 and May 10, 1996. Though lacking the validity of a true scientifically-selected random survey, the study nevertheless provides an interesting and widely-respected "snapshot" of who's using the giant computer network.

Complete results are available at http://www.cc.gatech.edu/gvu/user_surveys/survey-04-1996/ Other results include:
430 Tenth St. N.W., Suite N-112
Georgia Institute of Technology
Atlanta, Georgia 30318

John Toon (404-894-6986);
Internet: john.toon@edi.gatech.edu;
FAX: (404-894-6983)

WRITER: John Toon


Georgia Institute of Technology

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