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February 5, 2004

 

CONTACT:

Matt Lindsay: (202) 994-1423; mlindsay@gwu.edu   

Carol Darr: (202) 994-5141; darr@ipdi.org  

 

NEW STUDY FINDS PEOPLE INVOLVED IN POLITICS ONLINE ARE MUCH

MORE LIKELY TO BE INFLUENTIAL OPINION LEADERS

THAN THE AVERAGE AMERICAN

 

Report by GW’s Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet Identifies “Online Political Citizens” as a Small but Powerful Minority of Opinion Leaders and Political Activists

 

WASHINGTON —Americans who are politically active via the Internet are almost seven times more likely than the average American to serve as opinion leaders, says a new report by The George Washington University’s Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet (IPDI).  The report, Political Influentials Online in the 2004 Presidential Campaign, concludes that candidates, political parties and advocacy groups looking to reach the highest concentration of opinion leaders and political activists should turn to the Internet.

 

The report dubs the group of Internet-savvy people who visit candidate Web sites, make political contributions online and interact with other political junkies on the Web as “Online Political Citizens (OPCs).”  Political Influentials Online found that 69 percent of OPCs are “Influentials.”

 

 Influentials are defined by RoperASW executives Ed Keller and Jon Berry in their book, The Influentials, as Americans who “tell their neighbors what to buy, which politicians to support and where to vacation.”  According to Keller and Berry, normally 10 percent of Americans qualify as Influentials.  As the report states, “This means that OPCs are nearly seven times more likely than average citizens to serve as opinion leaders among their friends, relatives and colleagues, and are disproportionately likely to exert a ‘multiplier effect’ outward to the public at large.”

 

 “Online Political Citizens are influential Americans who most political organizations have either overlooked or misunderstood,” said Carol Darr, co-author of Political Influentials Online, director of IPDI and associate research professor at GW’s Graduate School of Political Management.  “This group has already made a huge impact on the 2004 presidential campaign and OPCs foreshadow a radical change in the nature of American politics.”

           

Based on the data collected, Darr and Graf estimate that OPCs make up about 7 percent of the U.S. population.  They also find that almost half OPCs are relative newcomers to American politics; 44 percent of OPCs have not been politically involved – i.e. working for a campaign, making a campaign donation or attending a rally – prior to the 2004 campaign.

 

“In general, the media has portrayed the people we call Online Political Citizens as isolated cyber-geeks,” said Joseph Graf, co-author of Political Influentials Online, project director at IPDI and adjunct professor at GW’s School of Media and Public Affairs.  “The results of the Political Influentials Online report shatter that stereotype and reframe Online Political Citizens as a group that deserves the attention of the media and the political mainstream.”

 

Political Influentials Online also finds that OPCs are:

  • More than two times as likely to have a college degree as the general American public.
  • More likely to be white, single and male than the general American public.  They also have higher incomes and are slightly younger.
  • Almost five times as likely to have donated money to a candidate or political party in the last three months as the general American public.
  • Very active through e-mail: 87 percent receive political e-mail and 66 percent forward political e-mail to friends or colleagues.
  • At least five times as likely to have written or called a politician in the past year than the general American public.
  • Eight times more likely to have attended a political rally, speech or organized protest than the general American public.
  • More likely to be Democrats than Republicans.  (Probably due to the greater activity in the Democratic Party through primary season).    

The data for Political Influentials Online was provided by Nielsen//NetRatings and RoperASW through more than 2,400 individual online and telephone surveys of Americans.  Individuals who visited online political and news sites were included in the 1,392 surveyed by Nielsen//NetRatings.  This data was analyzed against comparable data from a representative sample of the general population, gathered through a nationwide telephone survey of 1,029 adults by RoperASW. Funding for the report came from MSNBC.com and Slate.com.

 

IPDI is part of GW’s Graduate School of Political Management. Funded by a grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts, IPDI is the premier center for research and advocacy on online politics to increase citizen participation and uphold democratic values. 

 

Nielsen//NetRatings is a global Internet audience measurement and analysis firm.  For more information, visit www.nielsen-netratings.com.  Roper ASW, an NOP World company, is a global research and consulting firm.  For more information, visit www.roperasw.com.

 

MSNBC.com is an Internet news site, a joint venture, along with a 24-hour cable news channel, of Microsoft and NBC.  Slate.com is an online news magazine covering news, politics and culture.

 

For more news about IPDI and the Political Influentials Online report, visit www.ipdi.org.

For more news about GW, visit the GW News Center at www.gwnewscenter.org.

 

- GW -

 

 
 

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