Internet users had a better handle on politics in 2004, study finds

Jul 05, 2007

As candidates and pundits look to the Internet in the 2008 presidential campaign, a University of Wisconsin-Madison study shows that Web users during the last election cycle had a more thorough understanding of presidential politics than users of other media.

"We did not find significant links between television news use and factual knowledge, but we did find significant links from both print and online use to factual knowledge in 2004," says the study by graduate student Kajsa Dalrymple and Dietram Scheufele, a UW-Madison journalism professor.

More importantly, however, online newspapers were the only medium that had significant effects on integrated knowledge - the ability of readers to "connect the dots" by combining bits and pieces of knowledge into a meaningful understanding of politics.

"Our findings suggest that interested citizens are increasingly turning to online sources to develop a more in-depth understanding of candidates and issues, and that online newspapers may in fact be superior to print newspapers in promoting such an in-depth understanding, given their hyper-linked mode of presentation and their ability to link to outside sources," the research found.

The study, to be published in the July issue of the Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics, found that the Internet had positive and significant effects on all measures of knowledge, even after controlling for other media use.

Dalrymple's study used data from the 2004 American National Election Study, which interviewed more than 1,000 citizens before and after the election. She says the Internet is playing an increasingly important role in campaigns and in building a knowledge base for voters.

"The Internet is going to prove to be a medium where people are learning more about candidates and understanding why they may be important in the next presidential election cycle," she says. "It's a matter of understanding politics and not just breezing through headlines."

There are also messages for newspaper publishers and editors in the study, she says.

"Newspapers are still helping people learn, and they may be prompting people to seek out more information from the Internet," Dalrymple says. "Online newspapers are being read and are giving people a better understanding of politics. I would never suggest that newspapers are out of style, because that's where people are getting a base of political knowledge and from there many turn to the Internet. It will be interesting to see how online newspapers will compete in the future."

Source: University of Wisconsin

Explore further: Twitter takes note of other apps on smartphones

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

How to find the knowns and unknowns in any research

Oct 01, 2014

Have you ever felt overloaded by information? Ever wondered how to make sense of claims and counter-claims about a topic? With so much information out there on many different issues, how is a person new to ...

Google defends child porn tip-offs to police

Aug 05, 2014

Google defended its policy of electronically monitoring its users' content for child sexual abuse after it tipped off police in Texas to a child pornography suspect.

Recommended for you

UN moves to strengthen digital privacy (Update)

Nov 25, 2014

The United Nations on Tuesday adopted a resolution on protecting digital privacy that for the first time urged governments to offer redress to citizens targeted by mass surveillance.

Spotify turns up volume as losses fall

Nov 25, 2014

The world's biggest music streaming service, Spotify, announced Tuesday its revenue grew by 74 percent in 2013 while net losses shrank by one third, in a year of spectacular expansion.

Virtual money and user's identity

Nov 25, 2014

Bitcoin is the new money: minted and exchanged on the Internet. Faster and cheaper than a bank, the service is attracting attention from all over the world. But a big question remains: are the transactions ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.