The Pew Internet & American Life Project just released a report entitled The Internet and Civic Engagement and it is filled with interesting information. Who would have guessed that 10 percent of the American public in the last year sent a letter via snail mail or email to a newspaper or magazine, while just 8 percent of all adults have called into a live radio or TV show to express an opinion.
Here is another interesting tidbit:
13% of internet users maintain an online journal or blog; 4% of internet users have blogged about political or social issues.
Taking these two activities — posting content online and engaging politically on a social networking site — together, fully 19% of all internet users can be considered members of the online “participatory class”.
Sorry, I can’t stop here is another factoid:
As of August 2008, 33% of internet users had a profile on a social networking site and 31% of these social network site members had engaged in activities with a civic or political focus (such as joining a political cause, or getting campaign or candidate information). That works out to 10% of all internet users who used a social networking site for some form of political or civic engagement.
Here is the take home message:
Whether they take place on the internet or off, traditional political activities remain the domain of those with high levels of income and education. Contrary to the hopes of some advocates, the internet is not changing the socioeconomic character of civic engagement in America. Just as in offline civic life, the well-to-do and well-educated are more likely than those less well off to participate in online political activities such as emailing a government official, signing an online petition or making a political contribution.