Social Networks Become Increasingly Political Platforms
More and more Internet users are turning to their favorite sites to engage in political discussions, according to a new survey.
A report from the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project has revealed that about 22 percent of Internet-using adults used Twitter or social networking sites such as Facebook or MySpace in the months leading up to the November 2010 elections to connect to campaigns or the election itself.
During that time, about 11 percent of online adults discovered who their friends voted for in the November elections via a social networking site. Meanwhile, about 9 percent of online adults received candidate or campaign information through social media platforms.
Some used social networking sites to post political content and commentary (8 percent) and others “friended” a candidate or political group through these platforms (7 percent).
In contrast to the 2008 race — during which Democratic voters led the way in their use of online social networks for political purposes — Republican voters and supporters of the “Tea Party” movement caught up with Democrats in their use of social media in 2010.
The “political social media user” group represented by these 22 percent of Internet users voted for Republican congressional candidates over Democratic candidates by a 41 percent to 45 percent margin.
Among social networking site users, 40 percent of Republican voters and 38 percent of Democratic voters used these sites to get involved politically.
Tea Party supporters were especially likely to friend a candidate or political group on a social networking site during the 2010 election . About 22 percent of such users did this, significantly higher than all other groups, the report said.
“The social networking population as a whole has grown larger and demographically more diverse in recent years, and the same is true when it comes to political activity on social networking sites,” said Aaron Smith, a senior research specialist at the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and author of the report. “These platforms are now utilized by politically active individuals of all ages and ideologies to get news, connect with others and offer their thoughts on the issues that are important to them.”
The report said that the main reason Americans follow political groups on social networking sites or Twitter is because it helps them feel more personally connected to the candidates or groups they follow.
In fact, 36 percent said that this is a “major” reason they follow these groups or candidates while 35 percent said it is a “minor” reason.