The Pew Internet and American Life Project released a new study this week about trends in obtaining political news online.  The results were pretty interesting, but predictable, given the rise in user-generated Web content.  Here is a summary of some of the study's important points:

  • The number of Americans relying on the internet for political news doubled from the 2002 mid-term election and grew fivefold in the past decade:


  • Relatively young broadband users say the internet is a more important political news source than newspapers.  35% of those 36 and younger said that the Internet was their most important source of political campaign information, compared to 18% that cited newspapers.
  • 23% of campaign internet users became online political activists, meaning that they wrote blogs, forwarded other bloggers' posts to another person, created political audio or video recordings, or forwarded other people's audio or video recordings to another person.
  • Republicans and Democrats were equally likely to rely on the Internet for political campaign news.

This study clearly shows that the Internet has become a premier source of political campaign information.  The results beg an important question: how are potential 2008 presidential candidates making use of this growing dependence on the Web for political information?

To answer this question, I decided to take a close look at 12 websites: these site belong to politicians who have officially announced their 2008 candidacy or who have formed presidential exploratory committees.  I conducted the survey much the same way as I did our original campaign study, altering the criteria somewhat and keeping in mind that many of these sites are probably placeholders for future content and are not yet fully populated.

Here is what I found: 


Overall, I think these websites are a great start for the 2008 presidential campaign, and, for the most part, are an indication that politicians are maybe starting to "get it".  I was shocked to find the following quote on Tom Vilsack's site:

"But while a lot of campaigns think they are innovative because they slap up some YouTube video on their website and talk at people, our campaign’s desire is to embrace the greatest gift this medium gives political discourse: the ability to participate in two-way communication on a mass scale. " 

It's like these potential presidential candidates had a collective "eureka" moment.

Here are some interesting points about the websites:

  • While Mitt Romney's site doesn't have its own blog, it does aggregate blog entries from related sites.
  • Sam Brownback's site features a chat room.  Although when I logged in, no one else was there.
  • John McCain's site allows you to create "your own" John McCain site to share with family and friends.
  • Chris Dodd's site has a listing of what Chris is playing on his iPod.  You can suggest songs to him, and also you can upload your own YouTube videos to the site.
  • Mike Gravel's site offers a forum.
  • Dennis Kucinich's site tells you what other site members are online.
  • John Edwards rules the roost.  It's obvious that he's building on his past Web campaign experience by offering an incredibly robust website and blog.

Overall, it is safe to say that the majority of these sites are better-designed and far more robust than their 2006 counterparts.  We didn't see any of these specific features on the 2006 Senate campaign sites, and I can only expect that these sites will improve as races become more defined.  It will be interesting to see how the various online tactics play into next year's race. 

Click here to view the research data sheet with an explanation of feature criteria.