Pew on Civic Engagement Online

Late last month, the Pew Internet and American Life Project released a survey titled “Civic Engagement in the Digital Age.”  Does the obsession with mobile technology help or hinder efforts to engage citizens in civic affairs?  I know I am dying to know…

  • In 2012, 17% of all adults posted links to political stories or articles on social networking sites, and 19% posted other types of political content. That is a six-fold increase from the 3% of adults who posted political stories or links on these sites in 2008.
  • In 2012, 12% of all adults followed or friended a political candidate or other political figure on a social networking site, and 12% belonged to a group on a social networking site involved in advancing a political or social issue. That is a four-fold increase from the 3% of adults who took part in these behaviors in 2008.

In short, more adults are exchanging political information on sites such as Facebook and platforms such as Twitter than they did in 2008.  From the preliminary data, it isn’t clear if this is because there are more social network site users than there were in 2008, whether there is more political information online than there was before, or if these sites are replacing or supplementing more traditional sources of information such as broadcast news or newspapers.

The survey was conducted in August 2012, when the presidential election season was heading into overdrive; I’m not sure if this survey has much to say about general behaviors or folks getting swept up in the horse race.  In short, meh.  I would love Pew to conduct a survey right now, outside of the parameters of any clear election timeframe, to see how it measures up.  Pew, call me.  I’d love to lend a hand in question development. : )