Voters Use Web to Brush Up on Politics

NEW YORK Nearly 30 percent of Internet users are interested in seeing political advertisements online, according to a report released yesterday by the Online Publishers Association.

The study, conducted by the Center for Survey and Research Analysis at the University of Connecticut, revealed that 60 percent of Internet users said they are likely to notice an ad for a candidate online. And 20 percent said they would rather watch a candidate’s ad on the Web than on television.

As the 2004 race for the White House heats up—with the first of six official Democratic candidate debates taking place last night in Albuquerque, N.M.—the findings suggest that presidential hopefuls should consider the Internet as a part of their media campaigns.

During the 2000 presidential election, 31 percent of all Internet users turned to the Web for information about a representative or candidate, according to the study. In fact, more than half used it for that purpose multiple times per month. Given the growth in Internet usage since then, that frequency is likely to rise dramatically in the coming election cycle, the OPA predicted.

The study, based on a phone survey of 642 adult Internet users conducted over a six-week period this spring, showed that 68 percent of voters who use the Web are likely to research a candidate’s position. That finding was relatively consistent across party lines, with Democrats (57 percent), Republicans (68 percent) and Independents (59 percent) very or somewhat likely to do so.

“These finding suggest that candidates who use the Web to reach both their core constituents and undecided voters stand to gain a significant advantage in the upcoming political season,” said Michael Zimbalist, executive director of the OPA, the 2-year-old New York-based trade organization that represents Internet publishers.

On a state level, some politicians and candidates for office are taking heed. In the California recall election, for instance, Arianna Huffington is using the Web to attack Arnold Schwarzenegger in a cheeky, animated three-minute film [IQ Daily Briefing, Sept. 3]. The effort, which broke earlier this week on, features a drag race between Schwarzenegger, driving a yellow Hummer, and Huffington in a gas-electric hybrid car. Schwarzenegger zooms ahead, mowing down trees and families along the way, but he has to keep stopping for gas, at one point supplied by President Bush himself.