Virtual Realpolitik

For all the talk about the importance of the Internet in this year’s elections, there’s been precious little research on just how much influence the Web has on the public’s interest in, engagement with, and opinions about political issues and candidates. Now comScore Networks of Reston, VA, has released the findings of what it calls “a breakthrough survey” of the subject. Polling both visitors and non-visitors to political Web sites, the study yields dramatic insights into how visitors to these sites differ from the general population.

Among site visitors, 40% say the Internet has made them more interested in politics, 30% say the Web has made them more involved in politics (volunteer, donate, etc.), and 20% say political sites have changed their opinions regarding candidates or issues. Fully 85% of visitors answered that they “definitely will” vote in the November election, compared to 56% of non-visitors. Of course, Internet dominance does not necessarily translate into mainstream success — Howard Dean, whose campaign was adept at attracting followers and funding through the Web, drew more visitors to his site in December than did any other candidate. For more information, visit www.comscore.com.

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