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A Whole New Ball Game: 2008 is Record Setting Election According to New Pew Study

BY Alan Rosenblatt | Sunday, June 15 2008

Not only is turnout at record levels in primaries across the country, but the role the internet is playing in the election is setting records that bury previous high marks. According to the Pew Internet & American Life report issued today, a full "46% of Americans have used the internet to get political news and share their thoughts about the campaign. Online video and social networking sites have taken off, especially among Obama supporters." So let’s stop asking whether the internet will ever elect a president and accept the fact that no candidate can afford to downplay the importance of it.

Pew’s June 15, 2008 report, The Internet and the 2008 Election, is reporting widespread and deep use of the internet to following the election. The report makes clear that previous expectations about voter attention and behavior are no longer certain predictors of future elections. Though we are still four and a half months from the election, voter attention to it already rivals levels expected in October, based on past experience.

Not only do voters use the internet to learn about the candidates and the issues, but they are sharing it with others. This is most important. It means that what people learn on the internet influences nearly everyone in the country. If, according to Roper, 10% of Americans influence the other 90% years before the rise of social networks and social media sites, what can 10% of Americans do with them spread the word in 2008? People are using the internet to forward and post other people’s political comments, video, and audio, as well as their own at impressive numbers. And all of these behaviors are rising sharply since the last election.

And no segment of the country is more wired than Barack Obama’s supporters and young voting age Americans. They are more wired and more engaged than ever in politics. The record doubling of young voter turnout in the primaries is matched by their especially high levels of online political engagement.

Obama’s efforts to use the internet to reach out to voters, especially young voters, are paying off huge. They are spreading the word online, donating money, and voting in droves; all things that political scientists have long predicted wouldn’t happen.

For the full scoop, read the report here.