Are Internet users stuck to their laptops —  or out in the world being politically active?

The Pew Internet & American Life Project wanted to see if there was a solid link between the use of social network sites and political engagement. In their quest for an answer, they conducted a survey during the November 2010 mid-term elections. In the survey, they asked people if they had “gone to any political meetings, rallies, speeches, or fundraisers in support of a particular candidate,” if they “tried to convince someone to vote for a political party or candidate,” and if they had or planned to vote in the November election. 

Here’s what they found:

  • 10% reported that they had attended a political rally.
  • 23% reported that they tried to convince someone to vote for a specific candidate.
  • 66% reported that they intended to or had voted in the election (note: this is much higher than the 41% of American who were eligible to vote who actually did vote. This is a common post-election poll finding.
  • Users of LinkedIn are much more likely to be politically engaged than users of other SNS. 14% of LinkedIn users attended a political rally, 36% tried to persuade someone to vote, and 79% reported that they did or intended to vote.
  • MySpace users are the least politically active. Only 9% attended a political rally, 18% attempted to influence someone’s vote, and 57% voted or intended to vote.  (Education and gender are highly predictive of the likelihood of a person being politically engaged. Older and more educated Americans are more likely to be politically involved. Since LinkedIn users tend to be older and more educated, and MySpace users tend to be younger and less educated, this explains most of the difference between SNS platforms, according to Pew.)
  • When controlled for demographics, the study found that Internet users — and Facebook users in particular — were more likely to be politically involved than similar Americans.
  • Internet users are nearly two and a half times more likely to have attended a political rally (2.39x), 78% more likely to have attempted to influence someone’s vote, and 53% more likely to have reported voting or intending to vote than non-internet users.
  • A Facebook user who visits the site multiple times per day is two and a half times more likely to have attended a political rally or meeting, 57% more likely to have tried to convince someone to vote for a specific candidate, and 43% more likely to have said they voted or intended to vote.

Read the full report here: www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2011/Technology-and-social-networks/Part-4/Political-Engagement.aspx

We want to know:  Do you see a link between social network use and political engagement?

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