A record-breaking 46% of Americans have used the internet, email or cell phone text messaging to get news about the campaign, share their views and mobilize others. And Barack Obama's backers have an edge in the online political environment.
Furthermore, three online activities have become especially prominent as the presidential primary campaigns have progressed: First, 35% of Americans say they have watched online political videos--a figure that nearly triples the reading the Pew Internet Project got in the 2004 race.
Second, 10% say they have used social networking sites such as Facebook or MySpace to gather information or become involved. This is particularly popular with younger voters: Two-thirds of internet users under the age of 30 have a social networking profile, and half of these use social networking sites to get or share information about politics or the campaigns.
Third, 6% of Americans have made political contributions online, compared with 2% who did that during the entire 2004 campaign.
A significant number of voters are also using the internet to gain access to campaign events and primary documents. Some 39% of online Americans have used the internet to access "unfiltered" campaign materials, which includes video of candidate debates, speeches and announcements, as well as position papers and speech transcripts.
Online activism using social media has also grown substantially since the first time we probed this issue during the 2006 midterm elections.
Yet despite the growth in the number of people who are politically engaged online, internet users express some ambivalence about the role of the internet in the campaign. On one hand, 28% of wired Americans say that the internet makes them feel more personally connected to the campaign, and 22% say that they would not be as involved in the campaign if not for the internet. At the same time, however, even larger numbers feel that the internet magnifies the most extreme viewpoints and is a source of misinformation for many voters.