Americans increasingly follow midterms using social media and mobile

This article titled “Americans increasingly follow midterms using social media and mobile” was written by Dominic Rushe in New York, for on Monday 3rd November 2014 19.56 UTC

The number of Americans following this week’s midterm elections on their cellphones and via social media has more than doubled since they last went to the polls for midterms, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center.

In an election where virtually all the candidates are using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media to court voters, the survey found notable growth in the number of people tracking the election online. Some 28% of registered voters have used their cellphone to follow election news during the 2014 campaign, up from 13% in 2010. The proportion of Americans who follow candidates or other political figures on social media has risen to 16% from 6% in 2010.

The rise of mobile news was especially pronounced among 30- to 49-year-olds. Pew found 40% of voters aged 30 to 49 have used their cellphone to follow this year’s election campaign (up from 15% in 2010) and 21% follow political figures on social media (up from just 6% in 2010). The level of engagement was nearly identical to that of 18- to 29-year-olds.

Pew senior researcher Aaron Smith said: “Smartphones and social networking sites are being increasingly used by a broad cross-section of voters to stay informed about election news, and to get involved with the candidates and campaigns that they support. In particular, highly engaged voters are using social media to connect directly with candidates – helping them form more personal ties and giving them direct access to events as they happen on the campaign trail.”

Some 41% of those polled said that finding out about political news before other people was a “major reason” why they follow political figures on social media. In 2010, just 22% said that this was a major reason.

Feeling more personally connected to political candidates or groups was a “major reason” why 35% of respondents said they follow political figures on social media, little changed from the 36% who cited this as a major factor in 2010.

Just over a quarter, 26%, of respondents said that they believed they were getting more reliable information from social media than was available from traditional news organisations.

The report found Republicans and Republican-leaning independents were more attracted to social media than Democrats as a way of avoiding the “filter” of traditional media. Some 33% said getting more reliable information than they perceive is available from the traditional news media was a “major reason” for using social media compared with 20% of Democrats.

They also expressed a greater desire to be the first to receive breaking political news than Democrats; 50% cited this is a major factor in using social media compared with 35% of Democrats.

Pew’s report was based on a national survey conducted on 15-20 October among 2,003 adults (including 1,494 registered voters). © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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