The Internet is deepening its role as a major factor in what promises to be a tight, hard-fought presidential race, a new survey released Thursday discovered.
The Sachs/Mason-Dixon Poll finds one-quarter of voters say Internet news sites are the leading primary source of presidential campaign news. Newspapers and magazines come in at 23 percent, network news at 18 percent and cable news at 15 percent.
Digital news sources were significantly more important to voters under 35, suggesting that the battleground for young voters will be online. Five out of six voters said social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook will play an important role in this race. By a 49 percent to 23 percent margin, the respondents believe that the Obama campaign is making better use of social media than the Romney campaign.
"In today's ever-changing media landscape, it's essential that political campaigns, the media and the voters themselves have a clear understanding of how citizens receive their news and information," said Ron Sachs, president and CEO of Ron Sachs Communications.
"Modern political campaigns can no longer rely exclusively on traditional ways of reaching voters, and this is the first poll I've seen that takes the so-called 'new' media and matches it up to people's voting preferences."
The survey gave Republican Mitt Romney a three-percentage-point lead nationally over Democratic incumbent Barack Obama — 47 percent to 44 percent. Obama is ahead among women by 47 to 41 percent, and with voters younger than 50 by 49 to 42 percent.
Romney is supported by men by a 53 to 40 percent margin and older voters by 51 to 39 percent. Romney also has a 47 to 41 edge with independents.
By a margin of 37 percent to 33 percent, likely voters would most want Obama to be their Facebook friend. However, more voters think Romney "looks more presidential."
Among other poll results:
- The Internet is the leading method used by voters to receive breaking presidential campaign news, with 35 percent saying they use computers and 9 percent using smart phones;
- An overwhelming 84 percent of voters believe social media such as Facebook or Twitter will be important for the presidential candidates to raise money and win votes. By a 49 percent to 23 percent margin, voters believe Obama is the candidate who makes better use of social media platforms.
- Obama voters are more likely to rely on Internet news sites and network news as their top two sources of presidential campaign news and information, while Romney voters are more likely to look to newspapers/magazines and cable news.
- A majority of voters under the age of 35 rely primarily on Internet news sites for presidential campaign news and information, while voters 35 and older rely on a wider variety of news sources.
- One in 20 younger voters say entertainment shows — for example, "The Daily Show," "The Colbert Report," late-night talk shows and "Saturday Night Live" — are their primary source of presidential campaign news and information.
The poll was conducted among 1,000 likely voters between Thursday last week and Monday.
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