The Web and politics don’t mix, or do they?

You can just ignore all of the political pundits and media experts who say the next presidential election will be decided by bloggers and websites.  Forget the hype about MySpace, YouTube, and Internet campaigning. Few people use them an even fewer trust them according to a survey out today.  Nucleus Research says traditional print media is far more trusted than any other source. According to a survey of 383 people conducted in June 2007 by Nucleus Research and KnowledgeStorm, 72%  respondents report that mainstream media such as newspapers and magazines are their primary sources for political information. More than 56% of  respondents also cite these mediums as the main sources political knowledge. A few facts gleaned from the survey:  

·          Less than 5% of respondents turn to YouTube as a source of information, and only 19% use candidates’ Web sites. In addition, only 14% utilize political parties’ Web sites. 

·          The survey found that 18% of respondents gather their information from alternative news programs, such as the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. 

·          About 51%  of people feel as though they have a clear understanding of what the candidates stand for. Results suggest that voters are anxious to learn more about their potential leaders, but do not have the time to sift through what’s fact, fiction or propaganda on sponsored Web sites, or less traditional media outlets such as blogs. 

·          One in two people said the Internet has made political campaigns dirtier. 

·          People believe the proportion of positive to negative information is similar across media channels: print, television, and Internet-based information were all rated on average between 43 and 48% positive. 

 "There's been tremendous publicity surrounding how many 'friends' candidates have on MySpace, the 'Obama Girl' video on YouTube and Bill and Hillary's Soprano's spoof," said Rebecca Wettemann, vice president of research for Nucleus Research in a statement "While these stories are entertaining, the fact of the matter is that people trust and rely upon what they learn from mainstream media more than five times as much as the information they access on the Internet."  One reason could be the perception of a higher degree of editorial oversight for traditional media while nontraditional media and blogs don’t maintain the same standards, she said.    The most effective media at getting trusted political message across: Print 55%; Network news 33%;Cable news 30%; Media Web site 28%; Political party web site  14%; Blogs 10%; and Candidates websites 19%.   The study did note who it thought made the most effective Internet candidates: Hillary Clinton38%; Barack Obama 19%; John Edwards 9%; Rudi Giuliani 9%; Mitt  Romney 4%;  and John McCain 5% were the top six.The Nucleaus research basically dovetails with another study released last week by the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard:  “Young People and News”Based on a national survey of 1,800 randomly sampled young adults (some not of voting age yet), and older adults, the evidence shows that young Americans are estranged from the daily newspaper and rely more heavily on television than on the Internet for their news. A few decades ago, there were not large differences in the news habits and daily information levels of younger and older Americans. Today, unlike most older Americans, many young people find a bit of news here and there and do not make it a routine part of their day, the study said.Internet news exposure rose sharply in the 1990s and early 2000s, but the growth recently has slowed substantially.  Nevertheless, the Internet is a significant news medium, as well as the one where age differences are least important. About a fifth of our respondents—older adults, young adults, and teenagers alike—claimed to get news from the Internet on a daily basis, the study said.But it’s just plain short-sighted  to ignore the role the Internet will indeed play in the coming election.  For example, MySpace has launched the Impact Channel that includes a voter registration tool, personal profiles of the official candidates, and a fundraising tool that allows users to donate to the candidates of their choice. MySpace will also sponsor a nationwide presidential primary election on New Year's Day, 2008 — two weeks before the Iowa caucuses.Other actions such as Amber Lee Ettinger — alias Obama Girl — whose You Tube Web video, "I've Got a Crush on Obama," attracted more than 2 million hits during its first three weeks online.Then you have YouTube, CNN teaming up to have the presidential candidates answer questions submitted via YouTube videos during upcoming debates. The first debate will feature the Democratic candidates on July 23rd in Charleston, South Carolina. Submit your question for the Democrats between on  July 22.  The CNN political team will choose the most creative and compelling videos, and if yours is one of them, you may get the chance to fly to Charleston to watch the debate live and offer your reactions afterward on YouTube's political video blog, Citizentube.     

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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