The American Internet VoterWorking Paper No.: 97
Date Published: 2009-09-01
Thad E. Hall, University of Utah
Betsy Sinclair, University of Chicago
Since the creation of the Internet, there have been a seemingly never-ending number of books and analyses about the role of the Internet in Politics. Many of these books fail to keep in mind that the behavior of elites--well-educated and politically active individuals who often represent the peer group of these authors--is not generally representative of the behavior of the public at large. Pundits and political campaign, but few have systemically examined the role of the Internet in participatory politics for the average voter. Instead of relying on case studies, this paper uses nationally representative survey data from 2004-2008 to determine how the general public uses--or does not use--the Internet in their political lives. We then consider whether the patterns of use for this technology appear different in the November 2008 General Election cycle. We focus our concerns in the context of increasing polarization of both some fraction of the American electorate and the policy platforms of elected officials.