This post was written by Jim Hobart and Glen Bolger.
According to a recently released survey from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 55% of the adult population are now what Pew classifies as “online political users,” or, people who go online to either get information about politics, or to get involved in the political process. When taking a look at the demographics of this group, several key things jump out:
1. Online political users are not overwhelmingly young.While online political users do skew younger than the general adult population, it is not a group dominated by young people. The significant majority (67%) of online political users are age 30-64, compared with just one-quarter (25%) who age 18-29. Of course, adults age 30-64 represent a far greater percentage of the overall population, but the data makes it clear that while seniors (adults age 65+) are not yet using the Internet to get political news (seniors make up just 7% of online political users), everyone else is.
2. Online political users tend to be upscale college graduates.There has been a great deal written recently about the increasing importance of online fundraising, and a look at the education and financial demographics illustrate why it is becoming such an important aspect of political campaigns. Fully 40% of online internet users are college graduates, 13% higher than the 27% of the general adult population who graduated from college. The 13% jump is mirrored among households making more than $75,000/year, with 37% of online political users being in that income bracket, compared to just 24% of the general adult population.
3. The growth in the number of online political users shows no signs of slowing down.The percentage of online political users increased 18 points since 2004, and, more importantly, increased 9 points from the spring of 2008 to November/December 2008, when the Pew survey was conducted. With savvy campaigns on both sides of the aisle continuing to work to drive voters to official campaign sites, Facebook, Twitter, and other online resources, the number of online political users is sure to continue to increase in the coming months and years.
Online political users are wealthy, educated adults, ages 18-64. They are a group that looks like it will only continue to grow. Political campaigns on all levels would be wise to aggressively reach out to this increasingly important group.