A recent survey by the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project found that mobile phones have become a key information tool for the public in the 2012 election. "Smartphone owners are using their mobile devices as a tool for political participation on social networking sites and as a way to fact check campaign statements in real time," according to the Oct. 9 report.
The mobile politics report examines how registered voters across the political spectrum are using their phones during the campaign season. Among registered voters, 88% own cellphones, and 48% of those are smartphones. Nineteen percent of survey respondents with cellphones have sent campaign-related text messages to family and acquaintances, and 45% of smartphone users have read comments on social networking sites about a political candidate or campaigns.
[ Looking for a satisfying "second-screen" experience? See Social Media Guide To The Presidential Debates. ]
But political candidates apparently are not doing an effective job at connecting with on-the-go voters via mobile applications. The survey found that only 5% of cellphone carrying respondents have signed up to receive messages from candidates or other political groups, and just 8% have used apps from a candidate, political party, or interest group to get information about the campaign. "At the moment, cellphone apps are playing a relatively minor role in connecting voters to candidates," according to the report.
People are using their mobile devices to check on the veracity of political messaging. Thirty-five percent of smartphone users have used their devices to check whether something they heard about a candidate or campaign is true. And 27% of registered voters with cellphones have used their devices to follow the news around the 2012 presidential election,
Pew surveyed 1,005 U.S. residents September 20-23 for the report, which did not find big differences in device usage by party affiliation. "Republicans and Democrats engage at comparable levels in all of the mobile-politics activities measured," according to the report.
Among Republicans, 90% have cellphones and 45% have smartphones; regarding Democrats, 85% have cellphones and 47% have smartphones, and of Independents, 89% have cellphones and 49% have smartphones. Liberals (56%) and moderates (55%) outstrip conservatives (40%) in smartphone ownership.