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October 12, 2012

Politics Go Mobile

Politics and mobile devices do go hand-in-hand, a new study has discovered.

As the U.S. presidential race enters its final few weeks, a study by Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project has revealed a large number of voters are using their mobile devices to get information about the 2012 election as well as to interact with campaigns and other voters.

Eighty-eight percent of registered voters have a cellphone, although Republicans (90 percent) are slightly more likely to have one than Democrats (85 percent), the study found.

Twenty-seven percent of voters with a mobile phone have used it to stay abreast of election news and political issues in general.

“Republicans and Democrats engage at comparable levels in all of the mobile-politics activities we measured in our survey,” said a press release on the Pew website.

“There are some differences on this issue related to political ideology—for example, liberals are more likely than conservatives to use their phone to get political news—but overall these variations tend to be fairly modest.”

Three-quarters of cellphone-owning registered voters use their device to send or receive text messages, and within this group:

• 19 percent have sent text messages related to the campaign to friends, family members, or others.

• Five percent have signed up to receive text messages directly from a candidate or other group involved in the campaign.

• Five percent say they have received unwanted election-related text messages they did not sign up to receive.

Pew found 48 percent of registered voters with a cellphone have a Smartphone. People in this group are using their devices as tools for political participation and fact-checking campaign statements:

• 45 percent have used their Smartphone to read other people’s comments on a social networking site about a candidate or the campaign in general.

• 35 percent have used their Smartphone during this election campaign to check whether something they just heard about a candidate or the campaign was true.

• 18 percent have used their Smartphone to post their own comments on a social networking site about a candidate or the campaign.

Younger users are more politically active on their Smartphones than older users, the study also found. Fifty-two percent of Smartphone owners aged 18 to 49 read other people’s political comments on a social site while 30 percent of those 50 and over did so. The younger group was also more likely to post their own on comments (22 percent versus 12 percent) and to use their device to look up further information about political statements they’ve heard (43 percent versus 19 percent).

App use, however, has been low across the board, the study found. Only eight percent of app users have used apps from a candidate, political party, or interest group to get information or updates about the campaign. That will not be gratifying news to President-elect Barack Obama or Mitt Romney — both candidates have each released their own apps.