Study: Voters Expect Politicians to be Active on Social Networks…Are they Listening?

If politicians really are for the people, they should listen to the results of the latest survey from E-Voter Institute: voters overwhelmingly expect politicians to be actively using social media of all types when campaigning. Campaign websites, blogs, video, Twitter… these are all types of political communication that the majority voters expect from all politicians today, not just something they think should come from younger or more tech-savvy politicians. We take a look at some of the result from the E-Voter Institute survey below the jump.

The “Social Networks Supercharge Politics: Turning Action into Votes in 2010” survey from E-Voter Institute polled over 1,500 randomly selected internet users on their voting habits, social media habits, and political preferences.

More than two in five voters expects political candidates to make campaign information available online, through a website or social media. Out of these respondents, the vast majority (81%) think that a candidate should have his or her own website, half think that politicians should participate in some sort of social network, and just over 40% believe that politicians should be using Twitter.

In terms of how voters use social media, the results will be unsurprising to some: those who are most active in online social networks are also most active in politics. Almost 80% of avid social networkers (in this study, those who are members of Facebook, Twitter and at least one other mainstream social network) responded that they were either occasionally or very active in politics, compared to just 60% of the casual (belonging to at least one) social networkers.

Facebook is still the most popular network with voters, but stats from this survey reveal interesting trends on Twitter: more than twice as many liberal respondents used Twitter than conservative. Whether this is a result of the sample or a true reflection of the political makeup of Twitter remains to be seen.

Like many studies, this one cannot address the question of “what came first?”, social networking or political activism. Are people who are more engaged with online social networks more likely to participate in politics? Or are people who are politically active more likely to be active users of social networks? Arguments could be made for either supposition, and the jury seems to be out on a definite answer.

On a final note, the survey brings out an interesting discrepancy between what voters want and what they do. For instance, while 81% of respondents said they expected politicians to have a website, only 48% have ever visited one. Maybe this reveals a reason why politicians have met with varying success online. If actions don’t follow words, there is no trust – and this goes both ways. If voters say they want something but don’t act as if they do, politicians are unlikely to pay much attention to it.