A new survey by the USC/Annenberg Center for the Digital Future finds that a growing number of people in the U.S. are using the Internet to be informed and involved in the political process. Excerpts from Grant Gross' Computerworld article on the survey are featured below.
Just under 40% of U.S. Internet users believe people can increase their political power by going online, up from 27% of Web surfers who thought that when surveyed in 2003, according to an Internet research center.
This year marked the first increase in the percentage of U.S. users who believe the Internet can help people gain political power, said the Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future at the University of Southern California. The center has been conducting surveys on Internet use for five years.
"Print and broadcast forever changed politics," said Jeffrey I. Cole, director of the center. "They certainly made the audience feel more informed, but print and broadcast never made the audience feel more empowered politically."
Until this year's responses, Internet users didn't feel politically empowered either, Cole said. But a number of factors, including the growth of blogs and Democrat Howard Dean's Internet-centric presidential campaign in 2004, seem to have increased the visibility of the Web as a political tool, Cole said during a teleconference.
Cole pointed to growth in the number of Internet users who post their own content. This year, 6% of regular Internet users said they have their own blogs, 16% said they post pictures on the Web, and more than 10% maintain their own Web sites. In 2003, 3% of Internet users said they blogged, 11% posted photos, and less than 9% maintained Web sites.
Nearly 14% of Internet users under age 18 said they post their own content, compared with about 6% who did so in 2003. The growth in posting personal content is "reversing 450 years of media trends that was largely one way, from the source to the audience," Cole said.
The survey of people residing in 2,072 U.S. households during early 2005 found more than 60% of Internet users saying they believe the Web can be a tool to learn about the political process. That's up from 53% who said that in 2003. Just under 35% of nonusers agreed. The center defines nonusers as people who access the Internet less than once a month. The survey also found that 41% of Internet users went online to gather information about the 2004 U.S. presidential campaign.