Is online politics only for the rich?
Interesting report from across the pond reported on the BBC which found that according to a report by the Pew Internet Project;
“According to the report 35% of US adults on incomes of at least $100,000 (£62,000) participate in two or more online political activities compared to just 8% of adults on incomes of less than $20,000 (£12,000).”
“Some 31% of US citizens with a social network profile have engaged in either political or civic activities such as joining a political group or signing up as a friend of a particular candidate.
A further 15% of online adults had contributed to websites or blogs on a political or social issue.”
Hardly surprising that both sites should draw those with lower income into involvement since both are free to join. Therein lies a potentially valuable lesson between social networking sites and political engagement which to be fair most political parties in this country actually appreciate though the effectiveness of their interventions remains patchy. I suspect that if the same survey were conducted in the UK the %’s would be lower all round but that would in my eyes be largely due to the fact that the internet is less embedded in the United Kingdom. However, that is rapidly changing with 63% of households having a broadband connection and an estimated 73% of adults accessing the internet every day according to latest statistics. I think culturally as well; internet access is rapidly becoming seen as something that you must have, much like a television.
Obviously, this will make corporate interests more keen to penetrate what could be potentially a lucrative market although given one of the attractions of the internet is that things like news come plentifully and freely it will be interesting to see if they can actually achieve the cultural shift required to get people to pay. I rather suspect that the shift won’t happen (if you have to pay to access an online newspaper then you might as well buy it to be honest) and that advertising revenues will become central to supporting news outlets. The internet does have vast amounts of potential to democratise politics and draw people into involvement but if it is to do that commercialisation cannot go too far or else online politics will become only for the rich.