A January research study completed by the Pew Research Center (Election 2006 Online – Pew Research Study) suggests that more Americans are relying on the internet as a source of political news. As such, the recent online success the Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul has achieved should not be immediately discounted, as suggested by political pundits such as Rush Limbaugh (Is Ron Paul Internet Buzz Real or Spam?).
To the contrary, the Pew/Internet research study titled “Election 2006 Online” stated that 15% of Americans relied on the internet for their primary source of election news, compared with 18% in 2004 (the last presidential election) and 11% in 2000. If the 64% increase between the two previous presidential elections continued for the 2008 presidential election, then this would correlate to 29% of Americans viewing the internet as their primary source of political news. This would be good news for Dr. Paul, as his campaign buzz has reached an almost fevered pitch online (Presidential Candidate Ron Paul Gains Popularity on the Internet).
As more Americans choose to use the internet as a primary source of political information, less and less are choosing to pick up the newspaper. Only 34% of Americans viewed the newspaper as a source of election news in 2006, as compared with 57% in 1992. Television as a source of election news also significantly decreased from 82% to 69% over the same period (note that the numbers don’t add to 100% as people were allowed to select more than one “primary” source in this survey).
Although Ron Paul’s campaign has been virtually ignored by the mainstream media (Ron Paul Still Ignored by the Mainstream Media), the Pew study shows that this may not be as great a concern as some Ron Paul supporters may think. Over 53% of those who use the internet as a primary source of political information seek information from “non-mainstream” sites, such as blogs or candidate websites. Interestingly, 19% of Americans state that they rely on satire sites or shows like the Daily Show for their information. Since Ron Paul has appeared on both the Daily Show and the Colbert Report, this will certainly help him to improve his exposure with all voters.
The Pew study concluded that although many Americans do still get their political news from mainstream media sources (both online and through TV and newspapers), more and more voters are choosing to use the internet to find out more about the potential candidates. This would certainly help the case of “underdog” candidate Ron Paul, who thus far seems to be winning the election on the internet.
Link to sources:
Pew Research Center Study – Election 2006 (http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_Politics_2006.pdf)