Online political news, advertising grow in importance, finds new research

As the 2012 U.S. political season heats up with the Republican Iowa Caucus only days away, a new study from local forum Internet site Topix and Equation Research reveals the growing impact of the Internet on political persuasion and advertising.

A poll of 1000 voters nationwide asked respondents about where they get their political information. Sixty-eight percent of voters said they use the Internet as a primary source of information about candidates and political issues, second only to TV with 78 percent. Additionally, online news ranked top among respondents as the most helpful with political information. Eight-nine percent called online news somewhat or extremely useful.

When it comes to political advertising, the impact of online is being felt, as well. According to the research, 68 percent of those active in political conversations online said they are more likely to pay attention to advertising on a site where they participate in political discussion and debate.

Forty percent said they are more likely to see political advertising as credible if it is on a website that has both positive and negative commentary about the candidate. Additionally, 48 percent of voters ranked the Internet as the first or second most impactful advertising medium, coming in behind television at 66 percent.

Other findings include:
The chief reason voters said they participate in online political discussions is participants dissect issues in greater depth than traditional media.
More than half of all respondents agreed online discussions provide an array of opinions, not just extreme sides. This number jumped to 89 percent when asked of those who actively participate in online discussions.
Twenty-four percent of voters agree somewhat or completely that online conversations drive their vote. That number was 58 percent among those who participate in political debate online.

For the “2011 Politics Online Report,” Topix and Equation Research surveyed 1008 U.S. residents, over age 18 who vote in elections. The mean age of respondents was 44 with a mean income of $70,000 annually.