Americans dissatisfied with political sound bites are turning to the Internet for a more complete picture, a new study finds.
In a report Sunday, the Pew Internet and American Life Project said that nearly 30 percent of adults have used the Internet to read or watch unfiltered campaign material — footage of debates, position papers, announcements and transcripts of speeches.
"They want to see the full-blown campaign event. They want to read the speech from beginning to end," said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew group. "It's a push back from the sound-bite culture."
Google Inc.'s YouTube and other video sites have become more popular. Thirty-five percent of adults have watched a political video online during the primary season, compared with 13 percent during the entire 2004 presidential race.
The study also found that 10 percent of adults have used online hangouts like Facebook and News Corp.'s MySpace for political activity, whether it's to add a campaign as a friend on their personal profile pages, discover a friend's political interests or join an online political group.
Of course, video and social networking have grown in general since the last presidential election.
"It is mirroring the broader trends that we see online," Rainie said.
Online fundraising up
Pew also found online fundraising is up — 6 percent of adults have contributed to a campaign using the Internet, compared with 2 percent in 2004.
The Internet has allowed campaigns to reach first-time donors without the expense of direct mail or phone calls. Democrat Barack Obama has been particularly adept at generating small donations from a vast number of Internet users to become the fundraising leader among all the presidential candidates.
Pew found that among Internet users, Obama supporters were about twice as likely as backers of Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican John McCain to have made a campaign contribution online.
All told, 46 percent of Americans have used the Internet or cell phone text messaging for some political activity.
Yet they have mixed views about the Internet in politics. Sixty percent of Internet users fear that misinformation and propaganda are widespread online and that too many other voters are trusting that information. And only 28 percent believe the Internet helps them feel more personally connected to the candidate they support.
The telephone study of 2,251 adults, including 1,553 Internet users, was conducted April 8 to May 11 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.