The internet became an essential part of American politics in 2004. Fully 75 million Americans – 37% of the adult population and 61% of online Americans – used the internet to get political news and information, discuss candidates and debate issues in emails, or participate directly in the political process by volunteering or giving contributions to candidates.
A post-election, nationwide survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project and the Pew Research Center for The People & The Press shows that the online political news consumer population grew dramatically from 18% of the U.S. population in 2000 to 29% in 2004. There was also a striking increase in the number who cited the internet as one of their primary sources of news about the presidential campaign: 11% of registered voters said the internet was a primary source of political news in 2000 and 18% said that in 2004.
For campaign 2004, the overall figures related to uses of the internet for politics were:
52% of internet users, or about 63 million people, said they went online to get news or information about the 2004 elections. We call them online political news consumers.
35% of internet users, or about 43 million people, said they used email to discuss politics, and one of the most popular email subjects was jokes about the candidates and the election.
11% of internet users, or more than 13 million people, went online to engage directly in campaign activities such as donating money, volunteering, or learning about political events to attend.
A commentary on the internet and politics by Michael Cornfield accompanies this report.