April 1, 2003

The Internet and the Iraq war

WASHINGTON–Some 77% of online Americans have used the Internet in connection with the war in Iraq.

They are going online to get information about the war, to learn and share differing opinions about the conflict, to send and receive emails about events, to express their views and to offer prayers. In addition, a smaller portion of Internet users are using email to mobilize others and gain support for their views about the conflict.

In all, 55% of the nation’s 116 million adult Internet users have used email in one way or another to communicate or learn about the war and 56% have used the Web to get news, general information, and commentary on countless Web sites that have war related material and argument.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project surveys in the days just before the war began and right after hostilities were launched show record-breaking numbers of wired Americans were getting news online. For the first time in the Project’s research, we are seeing that more than half of those online on any given day are getting news on the Web.

War opponents and supporters are going online for different purposes and with different results during the early days of the conflict. They also have diverging views about the role the Internet is playing in their lives. As a rule, war opponents use email and the Web for a variety of purposes and they are more appreciative of the benefits of the Internet use than those who support the war. War opponents are more politically active online, more anxious to discuss the war, and more likely to seek out a variety of sources of information about the war. War opponents are more likely than war supporters to say that their use of the Internet has helped to shape their views about the war, has helped them stay abreast of events, and has helped them share their views with others.

The results of the survey work are reported in a new report entitled, “The Internet and the Iraq war.” Among other things, the report shows:

  • The overwhelming majority of Internet users are using TV to get most of their war news. In fact, of all the major forms of media, the Internet is last on the list of ways that online Americans are getting most of their news. Still, 17% of online Americans say their principal source of information about the war is the Internet and that number is considerably higher than when we asked questions about how Americans were getting their news immediately after the 9/11 terror attacks.
  • U.S. Internet users support the U.S. war effort by a 3-1 margin. Some 74% of Internet users back the U.S. war effort and 22% oppose it. Internet users are more likely than non-users to support the war and to support the way President Bush is conducting the war.
  • Blogs are gaining a following among a small number of Internet users, but they are not yet a source of news and commentary for the majority of Internet users. Some 4% of online Americans report going to blogs for information and opinions. The early data suggest that the most active Internet users, especially those with broadband connections are the most likely to have found blogs they like. In addition, blogs seem to be catching on with younger Internet users – those under age 30 – at a greater pace than with older Internet users.

    The Pew Internet & American Life Project is a nonpartisan, non-profit research organization fully funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts to examine the social impact of the Internet.