Voters turn to phones and social media for 2014 news

Steven Loeb · November 3, 2014 · Short URL:

28% of registered voters now get news on their phone, and 16% follow candidates on social media

So, there's an election tomorrow. I'm not going to vote in it though, because I don't think I'm registered anymore. I was when I lived in New York. I tried to register when I became an official California resident, and got my ID, but I somehow don't seem to be on the rolls.

And you know what? I don't really care. My cynicism regarding our politics has really gotten the best of me this cycle. My faith in our system is so shaken right now that unless Jesus comes riding on a unicorn to save the day, I won't believe that anything will get better until I see it happen. 

Not everyone is like me, though; there are some people who can still somehow bring themselves to pay attention to all the nonsense. And they are getting their information from exactly where you think they are (hint: it's not from a newspaper or a talking head).

According to a new report out from Pew on Monday, the majority of information is being gleamed from cell phones and social media platforms.

When it comes to people using their cell phones to track election news, or coverage of the campaigns, it has more than doubled since 2010, a.k.a. the last time we had a midterm election, from 13% to 28%.

It is up among all age groups and political affiliations, but was especially pronounced among those aged 30-49, going from just 15% who used their phones to 40%. 18-29 year olds also saw a big increase, from 28% to 43%.

Among parties, it's relatively the same across the board, with 25% of Republicans, 29% of Democrats and 32% of Independents. 

Pew calls these people “mobile election news consumers” and says that they "are more active than other Americans when it comes to certain campaign activities." That includes trying to get others to vote or get behind a particular candidate, which 58% of them have done. And 11% of them have attended a campaign event.

Both of those numbers are much higher than people who don't use their phones to track the election. And, I have to say, I'm not surprised by that at all.

Let's put it this way: if you have some downtime to chill out on your phone, and you are using to watch Mitch McConnell's latest attack ad against Alison Lundergan Grimes, rather than using it to play Candy Crush or scroll through your Facebook feed, then of course you're going to be bothering other people to do the same thing. Because it's all you think about. 

Not to judge or anything, but I think you care a little too much.

Social media

People are also now using social media to follow candidates in much, much larger numbers than they did in 2010.

The total percentage of registered voters went from 6% to 16%in four years, and there were large increased across the board. Again, the largest increase came from the 30-49 year old category, which jumped from 6% to 21%. The 50-64 year olds also increased drastically, from 5% to 15%. 

But we already knew this was happening, right? Here's the more interesting part: Pew also asked why people were following more candidates on social media.

The reason is, frankly, because they want to be first. Don't ever discount people simply wanting to show off how smart they are for their friends and neighbors. It's a good chunk of why most people learn anything.

Yes, 41% of registered voters say that "helps me find out about political news before others do" is a major reason for following candidates. That is a 19% increase from 2010.

The second most popular reason is just... ugh. 35% cited wanting to feel closer to their candidate. Who wants to be the one to tell them that the person who posts on their candidate's Facebook page is likely not even getting paid to do it. That number actually dropped a percentage point from four years ago.

And, finally, 25% of registered voters think that what they read on Facebook  and Twitter is more reliable information than what is available from traditional news organizations, up 5% from  2010.

As ridiculous as that may sound, because I'm sure Chris Christie's Facebook page was giving constant updates about Bridge-gate and Andrew Cuomo's Twitter account is filled with information about his ethics charges, I can't blame people for this. With the state of the news media, who could? Who are you going to trust? CNN? 

By the way, it's apparently Republicans who want their news faster, 50% compared to 35% of Democrats. They also want news that they consider to more reliable information than is available from traditional news organizations, 33% to 20%.

And both Republicans and Democrats are equally likely to say that feeling more personally connected to the candidates is a “major reason” for following them on social media.

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