About half of social networking online users say those sites are not at all important to them when it comes to political activity and only a small minority say they're very important, finds a poll published Sept. 4 by the Pew Research Center.
The poll (.pdf) is based on a telephone survey conducted from Jan. 20 through Feb. 19 that reached 2,253 adults through landline or cellphone; the margin of error ranges from 2 to 3 percentage points.
More than half the U.S. population participates in one online social network or another, the poll finds, with 74 percent of Internet users describing themselves as liberal on a network and 60 percent of conservative Internet users on a network.
But despite the attention that online social networks often garner from the political class, 73 percent of Americans say debating or discussing political issues on those websites is not at all or not too important.
Social networking Democrats tend by a significant margin to believe in greater numbers that such sites are very or somewhat important to political activities, with 35 percent stating so when it comes to recruiting people to get involved versus 25 percent of social networking Republicans.
However, in a time of tight margins (the RealClearPolitics poll average currently has Barack Obama and Mitt Romney tied), a poll finding that 16 percent of social network site users have changed their views about a political issue after discussing it or reading posts about it on the sites could be important to campaigns. A quarter of social network site users also say they've become more active in a political issue after exposure to it on those sites--although 9 percent also say they've become less involved as a result.
Only a minority of social network site users post political content online, with 63 percent stating they've posted nothing at all and another 21 percent stating they've posted just a little.
Self-identified conservative users are the most likely to say that all, or almost all, of what they put on social networking sites is about politics.
- download the Pew Research Center poll and analysis, "Politics on Social Networking Sites" (.pdf)