The Electorate Isn’t Completely Uninformed, and We Can Give Some Credit to Facebook
The pessimist inside every participating member of a democracy thinks that the electorate is full of completely uniformed voters who will pick candidates based on their tie color, much like a disinterested sports follower will pick March Madness teams based on their mascots. While there is plenty of evidence to suggest that they may be correct, a new study from Pew shows that at least a significant chunk of the electorate is at least attempting to inform themselves through online videos.
Of course, breaking from the ranks of the uninformed doesn’t imply that you’ll break from the ranks of the misinformed, but that’s a whole other argument.
Voters in 2012 have a distinct advantage over voters of the past. The internet and the rise of online video has given them a wellspring of information. Sorting through all of it to find the good and weed out the bad is one thing – but at least it’s all there for the taking. Pew’s study finds that a significant portion of registered voters are viewing and sharing online political videos this election season.
55% of all registered voters and 66% of internet-savvy registered voters say they’ve taken to the interwebs to watch online political videos this season. Here’s a more specific breakdown:
- 48% of internet-using registered voters watch video news reports online about the election or politics
- 40% watch previously recorded videos online of candidate speeches, press conferences, or debates
- 39% watch informational videos online that explain a political issue
- 37% watch humorous or parody videos online dealing with political issues
- 36% watch political advertisements online
- 28% watch live videos online of candidate speeches, press conferences, or debates
And Pew says that 40% of internet-using voters have accessed said political videos via social media recommendation.
Is there a party line discrepancy? Not really, says Pew:
“There are very few partisan differences when it comes to watching political videos, or to having them recommended by other people. Democratic and Republican voters are equally likely to have watched political videos online this election season, to have recommended online political videos to other people, and to have received such recommendations from others. However, registered voters who identify as liberal are more likely to have had political videos recommended to them on a social networking site this election season than moderate or conservative voters.”
Information is out there, if you’re willing to find it. In future elections, the availability of streaming and static video will only increase. While we can’t know the exact content of the videos this sample of the electorate accessed, we do know that over half were engaged enough to seek it out.