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Survey: Blogs, Chats Key to Campaigns

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By Brian Krebs
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Thursday, January 15, 2004; 8:53 PM

Political candidates trying to use the Internet to win support from young, Web-wise voters should avoid pop-up and banner ads and instead use interactive media like Internet chats and "blogs," according to a study released today.

Sponsoring an online chat room or creating a Web log -- or blog -- where people can voice their opinions and ask questions is the most popular way for candidates to communicate with young people, according to the study, which was sponsored by the D.C.-based Council for Excellence in Government's Center for Democracy and Citizenship and the University of Maryland's Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.

The study showed that teenagers and younger voters resented being peppered with one-way communications. Sixty-nine percent of the respondents said they would be less likely to pay attention to a candidate who sent weekly text messages to their cell phones or handheld devices.

"The Internet is a terrific tool to use with those you already have reason to believe are with you and who are willing to do more on their terms, but by all means avoid like hell the shotgun scatter of banner ads and blanket e-mail," said David Skaggs, executive director at the Center for Democracy and Citizenship and a former Democratic Congressman from Colorado.

The findings support previous studies about the way that young people participate in the political process, said Michael Cornfield, research director for the Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet at the George Washington University.

"There's no question that young people, probably more than any other subset of voters, want to be listened to, not talked to," Cornfield said. "They want to have someone connect their perception of the issues on a local scale to those on a national or global scale."

The survey suggests that the Internet is most effective for candidates pursuing young people who are already interested in politics or passionate about certain key issues.

The study also found that young people are much more likely than other age groups to find political information online, but traditional media outlets -- television, newspapers and magazines -- remain the primary sources of political news. About 20 percent of young Americans turn to the Internet for news on political campaigns, the study found.

It comes shortly after the Pew Internet & American Life Project released a report that found that the Internet trails other media as a resource for campaign news. The study said that more than a third of the nation's Internet users have gone online to get campaign information. About 75 percent rely primarily on television for campaign information, the study concluded.

The CEG/Maryland study, which surveyed 1,000 people ages 15-25, was conducted in late November by Lake Snell Perry & Associates and the Tarrance Group. Participants were presented with a list of different media and asked how much attention they would pay to each for campaign information. They also were asked whether particular forms of communication would engage them or "turn them off."


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