Continuing the discussion commenced in last month’s article, which examined the role of the Internet in this year’s presidential election, it will be useful to take a look at some of the research and projections out there regarding the Internet’s influence on the race to the White House. This month’s discussion will consider the results of a survey conducted several months ago by the Pew Research Center. A quick scan of their results confirms the notion that the Internet is indeed a medium of enormous political potential. In a report entitled, “Cable and Internet Loom Large in Fragmented Political News Universe: Perceptions of Partisan Bias Seen as Growing, Especially by Democrats,” the Pew Research Center made several significant findings, all of which support the Internet’s function as an increasingly dominant means of communication.

The 2004 presidential campaign is continuing the long-term shift in how the public gets its election news. Television news still prevails as the principal method to connect with voters, but there has been further attrition in the audience for broadcast TV news. The Internet, a comparatively minor source for campaign news in 2000, is now on par with such traditional outlets as public television broadcasts, Sunday morning news programs and the weekly news magazines. In that regard, the relative gains for the Internet are especially notable. While 13 percent of Americans regularly learn something about the election from the Internet, up from 9 percent at this point in the 2000 campaign, another 20 percent say they sometimes get campaign news from the Internet (up from 15 percent). The survey shows that young people, in particular, are turning away from traditional media sources for information about the campaign. Just 23 percent of Americans age 18-29 say they regularly learn something about the election from the nightly network news, down from 39 percent in 2000.

Cable news networks are the most frequently cited source of campaign news for young people, but the Internet is also an important agent of election news for Americans under 30. One-in-five young people say they regularly get campaign news from the Internet. In fact, those who learn about the campaign on the Internet are considerably more knowledgeable than the average, even when their higher level of education is taken into account. While cable news and the Internet have become more important in informing Americans about the election, television as a whole remains the public’s main source of campaign news. About three-quarters of Americans who use the Internet say television is their first or second main source for news about the campaign (37 percent cite newspapers, 20 percent the Internet). The latter data is a testament to Republican and Democratic estimates for spending on television advertisements. Indeed, both campaigns have spent heavily on television. Mr. Bush has used more than $65 million on television since he began advertising in March, while Kerry has reached the $45 million mark in that period of time.

As one considers the above-mentioned facts and figures, it is evident that with Web technology, Cable news, etc., there is no longer just one primary method for campaigning. It is a matter of adaptation and survival – political candidates must evolve with the changing times or else become extinct. It is imperative to be in sync with the requirements of the 21st century, particularly with the country so sharply divided that most political analysts figure as few as 10 percent of voters are undecided. Each side is struggling to find and bring out every last one of these voters, persuading them by means of a computer-to-computer and website-to-website contest to match the door-to-door and TV-to-TV ground war.