Monday, April 29, 2013

Social Networking Sites Become Increasingly Political...

Since its inception, the Internet has often been heralded by some as a potential tool for raising levels of civic and political engagement.  New evidence seems to (finally) support this claim.

From 2008 to 2012 there was a major jump in how many online social network users engaged in some type of political activity, according to a new study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.  Most notably, the overall number of people who posted links to political news stories or articles rose from 3% to 19%.

Here are a few other notable statistics:
  • 38% of SNS users "Liked" or promoted political material that others have posted.
  • 35% encouraged other people to vote.
  • 34% posted their own comments/thoughts on political issues.
  • 33% reposted political content.
  • 31% encouraged others to take action.
  • 28% posted links to political stories for others to read.
  • 21% belonged to a group that is involved with a political issue or promoting a political cause.
  • 20% actually followed elected officials or public figures.
Also, significantly, the total amount of SNS users who said they engaged in at least one of these activities was 66%.

What would be interesting to see is further research on the growth patterns for specific social-network sites.  For instance, how people use Facebook is often very different from how they use Twitter or Instagram, so breaking down these overall numbers into more detail would be instructive.  Also, correlating these numbers with voter turnout patterns or political party identification might also be revealing about the current state of affairs.

Nevertheless, considering that 66% of social-network users are engaging in some sort of political activity online, is that surprising, or does it merely confirm what you may have already noticed in your increasingly politicized news feeds?



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