- New media more essential than ever to politics. Forty-two percent of voters look to the Internet for information about issues and candidates in the upcoming presidential election, with the Internet a considerably more popular information source than newspapers among respondents between the ages of 18 and 34.
- Almost half of online voters use search engines for political information. Forty-seven percent of those who go online for information about candidates and issues use search engines to conduct their research, equal to the 46 percent who do not; usage is roughly equal among Democratic, Republican and independent voters.
- Traditional news organization and social media sites top candidate sites. Eighty-eight percent of those who use the Internet for information about candidates and issues in the 2008 presidential election visit sites of news organizations such as CNN and The New York Times and 42 percent go to a range of social media sites; only 30 percent go to candidate Web sites.
- More than half of younger online voters are turning to social media for election information. Of potential voters who are looking for election information online, 61 percent of 18 to 24 year olds and 55 percent of 25 to 34 year olds seek answers on user-driven content sites such as blogs, YouTube and Wikipedia.
- Issues matter to voters, but candidates are not responding. Issue-oriented searches dominate over explorations of candidates’ voting and personal histories by a margin of nearly two to one; yet nearly all candidates rank poorly for issue-based search visibility.
- Barack Obama and war in Iraq are tops in current candidate and issue searches. Obama attracts the largest share of searches among candidates in the survey of voter interest as of May 2008, topping Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani. The war in Iraq is the most searched for issue.
- eBay trumps McCain in paid search. John McCain currently dominates the overall paid search candidate landscape, but online auction house eBay still ranks first in paid search visibility for the tested issue-based keyword set.
I think that much of this is intuitive -- or at least, not too surprising -- with the exception of the nugget I highlighted about voters looking for information on issues. In retrospect, that makes sense as well -- but would not have occurred to me.
That is, while voters do search for information about the candidates, they search far more for information on the issues. If your campaign website is among the top results when people google 'war in Iraq,' your position will get more attention than that of your rivals. If voters instead wind up on the CNN page, or the New York Times, or Wikipedia, you've lost an opportunity to reach out to them.
According to the report, the top issue searches are: War in Iraq, Gas prices, Health care, Global warming, War on terror, Social Security, Immigration, Jobs, Economy, and Education.