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1 Out of 5 Adults Want Elected Official Contact Info on Their Personal Web Pages

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, December 21 2009

Over on USA.gov, they're running an interesting dialogue about how to improve the site, which is a primary portal for citizens seeking all kinds of information from government. (Compete.com says USA.gov averages just under a million unique visitors a month.)

One person commented, "Though it would be a lot more work, it would be nice if site 'regulars' could customize their visit. There’s a ton of information; it would be great to reduce it down to what I want to see when I regularly visit the site."

In response to that comment, Karen Trebon, a Program Analyst with GSA Office of Citizen Services, wrote, "In public opinion polling we have done, we have found that about 78% of those surveyed are interested in personalized government information."

That caught my eye, as I've long argued that USA.gov (or some other government hub) should offer a "myUSA.gov" or "citizen.gov" portal that users could tune around their own interests and needs. So I reached out for details from Trebon and got this in response:

"We have an account with Forrester Research that allows us to participate in their online omnibus survey. The idea is that Forrester customers share the space and costs of the survey. Easier, cheaper and faster than starting our own. This allows us to ask questions that are customized to the government. I find this information hard to come by.

Here is the question about personalization, and the results. I should probably edit my dialog comment, and not assume that 78% are interested in personalization because 22% said "none of these." And maybe there are topics NOT listed that people ARE interested in. We did not offer a "write in" opportunity.

"If you could add specific types of government updated information to your personal home page (iGoogle, MyYahoo), what would you choose? (Select all that apply):

44% - Local weather conditions
34% - National Weather Service warnings
24% - Tax tips
23% - Government Auctions (real estate and surplus)
22% - Government Contacts (elected officials)
19% - Government Jobs
19% - Government Search
22% - None of these

5,249 people over age 18 surveyed

This information was collected in quarter 3 of 2008. If we were to proceed with any kind of USA.gov personalization, I'm sure we would run this question again with Forrester. This would be due diligence as far as market research, and hopefully, we would find increased interest."

It's not surprising to find so many people interested in personalizable information about local weather (it is the number one topic of conversation, after all). Nor am I surprised to find so many people interested in tax tips, auctions of government property or jobs. But for 22% to say that they want to be able to add government contact information, like their elected officials, to their personal web pages, is really interesting. For arguments sake, that's roughly 40 to 50 million adults. Most political web practice is focused on a smaller target group, the roughly 15 to 20 million online political activists identified by Pew's studies. This nugget from the GSA suggests a much larger group is out there waiting to be engaged.