A Cross-Section of Voter Learning, Campaign Interest and Intention to Vote in the 2008 American Election: Did Web 2.0 Matter?

Groshek, Jacob; Dimitrova, Daniela
Estudos em Comunicacao

The 2008 American presidential election was notable for many reasons, including ethnic, gender, and financial components (Federal Election Commission, 2009) as well as a robust Democratic primary contest and the highest turnout rate in 40 years (McDonald, 2008). Also, during this campaign, ratings remained competitive among many print and broadcast media (Stelter & Pérez-Peña, 2008) despite the growth of an increasingly diverse mediascape. As part of this process, the Internet continued to expand as a news source and Web-based technologies became more available, interactive, and replete with user-generated political content (Pew Research Center, 2010). These political and media developments seemed so interrelated that Sanson (2008, p. 162) wrote that this election cycle “marks the first presidential campaign defined by new media.” Given these features, the 2008 American election provides a useful opportunity to empirically analyze and compare the effects of different forms of traditional and online media. The purpose of this study is therefore to measure the political influences of citizens’ exposure and attention to a variety of media platforms. Decades of political communication research on traditional media outlets have generally found positive relationships between such media use and key political variables of political knowledge, involvement, and participation (see Drew & Weaver, 2006; Zhao & Chaffee, 1995). Nonetheless, debates between media malaise and media mobilization scholars have never been perfectly reconciled largely due to distinctions in content rather than format type (Aarts & Semetko, 2003; Cappella and Jamieson, 1997). Considering the more recently diffusing Web 2.0 applications (O’Reilly, 2005), a good body of scholarship has come to position the Internet as a political tool that has the potential to invigorate certain aspects of American democracy (Boulianne, 2009; Gil de Zúñiga, Puig-I-Abril, & Rojas, 2009)