Political and civic involvement have long been dominated by those with high levels of income and education, leading some advocates to hope that internet-based engagement might alter this pattern. However, a new report by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project shows that the internet is not changing the fundamental socio-economic character of civic engagement in America. When it comes to online activities such as contributing money, contacting a government official or signing an online petition, the wealthy and well-educated continue to lead the way.
Still, there are hints that the new forms of civic engagement anchored in blogs and social networking sites could alter long-standing patterns. Some 19% of internet users have posted material online about political or social issues or used a social networking site for some form of civic or political engagement. And this group of activists is disproportionately young.
About the Survey
The results in this report are based on data from telephone interviews conducted by Princeton Survey Research International between August 12 and 31, 2008, among a sample of 2,251 adults, 18 and older. For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 2.4 percentage points. For results based internet users (n=1,655), the margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2.7 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting telephone surveys may introduce some error or bias into the findings of opinion polls. This survey was conducted on landline telephones and is meant to be representative of all adults in the continental United States. There were no interviews conducted on cell phones.