The Internet and the 2008 Election

The 2008 election campaign has sparked unprecedented interest within the electorate. Throughout the spring, surveys by the Pew Research Center for The People & The Press have found that roughly one-third of Americans have been following news about the primary campaign very closely—a level of interest often not usually reached until the peak of election season. Within this context, large numbers of Americans are not only going online to learn about the campaigns, but are also taking an active role in promoting online conversations about politics and spreading news and information about their candidate of choice or the race in general.

In total, 46% of all adults are using the internet, email or phone text messaging for political purposes in this election. That is the percentage of those who are doing at least one of the three major activities we probed – getting news and information about the campaign, using email to discuss campaign-related matters, or using phone texting for the same purpose.

  • 40% of all Americans (internet users and non-users alike) have gotten news and information about this year's campaign via the internet.
  • 19% of Americans go online once a week or more to do something related to the campaign, and 6% go online to engage politically on a daily basis.
  • 23% of Americans say they receive emails urging them to support a candidate or discuss the campaign once a week or more.
  • 10% of Americans use email to contribute to the political debate with a similar frequency.

This is the first survey in which the Pew Internet & American Life Project has asked about the use of text messaging for political reasons. While text messaging has not yet equaled the internet or email as a widespread political tool, we find that nearly one in ten text messaging users (representing 4% of all adults) are sending or receiving text messages about the campaign or other political issues on a regular basis.