Cell phones and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are playing an increasingly prominent role in how voters get political information and follow election news, according to a new national survey by the Pew Research Center.
The proportion of Americans who use their cell phones to track political news or campaign coverage has doubled compared with the most recent midterm election: 28% of registered voters have used their cell phone in this way during the 2014 campaign, up from 13% in 2010. Further, the number of Americans who follow candidates or other political figures on social media has also risen sharply: 16% of registered voters now do this, up from 6% in 2010.
Voters of all ages are more likely to take part in these behaviors than in the previous midterm race, but that growth has been especially pronounced among 30-49 year olds. Some 40% of voters ages 30-49 have used their cell phone 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). Voters in this age group now take part in each of these behaviors at rates nearly identical to 18-29 year olds.
Participation in the digital campaign does not have a clear partisan slant. Republicans and Democrats engage in each of these behaviors at similar rates. At the same time, when asked about some reasons why they might follow political figures on social media, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents express a greater desire to be the first to find out about breaking political news, and to say that they use social media to get political information that has not passed through the traditional media “filter.” Voters from both parties place a similar emphasis on the deeper connections that social media allows them to form with the candidates they support.
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