November 15, 2011

Topix announced the results of a new study on the Internet’s impact on political persuasion, debate and advertising. The 2011 Politics Online Report asked over 1,000 voters nationwide where they get their political information, if and where they engage in political debate and what types of information influences their vote.

“According to our research, campaigns and interest groups not heavily weighting online forums, news sources and discussion groups in their campaign strategy, will be unpleasantly surprised to find they have missed a significant opportunity this election cycle”

The research found an increasing number of citizens turning to each other (versus one-to-many sources such as traditional news outlets and candidate-driven leaflets, etc.) for guidance on key issues. Research uncovered voters using the Internet as their preferred venue for this exchange of ideas. Specifically, more than two-thirds (68 percent) of voters use the Internet as a primary source of information about candidates and political issues, second only to television (78 percent). Online news also ranked the most helpful political information source, with 89 percent of respondents calling it somewhat or extremely useful.

Even more surprising, more than a quarter of voters (27 percent) participate in political discussions or debates online.

“Americans don’t trust traditional media – or politicians – to provide unbiased information, which is why they are now taking matters into their own hands, going online to conduct their research and participate in civic discussions with their neighbors,” said Chris Tolles, CEO of Topix.

Other key findings include:

The primary reason voters participate in online political discussions is that participants dissect issues in greater depth than traditional media (81 percent of those active in political discussions online somewhat or completely agreed).

Over half of all respondents agreed online discussions provide an array of opinions, not just extreme sides. This number jumped to 89 percent when asked of those who actively participate in online discussions.

24 percent of voters agree somewhat or completely that online conversations drive their vote. Of those that participate in political debate online, 58 percent say the conversations drive their vote.

The research also addressed political advertising. 68 percent of those active in political conversations online say they are more likely to pay attention to advertising on a site where they participate in political discussion and debate. Two out of five voters say they are more likely to see political advertising as credible if it is on a website that has both positive and negative commentary about the candidate. And, 48 percent of voters ranked the Internet as the first or second most impactful advertising medium, coming in behind television at 66 percent.

“According to our research, campaigns and interest groups not heavily weighting online forums, news sources and discussion groups in their campaign strategy, will be unpleasantly surprised to find they have missed a significant opportunity this election cycle,” added Tolles.

For the 2011 Politics Online Report, Topix and its partner Equation Research surveyed 1,008 U.S. residents, over 18 who vote in elections. The mean age of respondents was 44 with a mean income of $70,000 annually.

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