A Closer Look by the ECPIP Staff… Internet Use and the NJ Gubernatorial Election

Clicking on and Connecting to the 2013 New Jersey Governor’s Race

Ashley Koning

Ashley Koning is Manager of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at Rutgers University.

The Internet has become an increasingly integral tool for both voters and politicians alike during campaign seasons, and this past year’s gubernatorial race in New Jersey was no exception.  Gov. Christie has always been technologically savvy – with Twitter accounts, a YouTube channel, thousands of hits on his YouTube videos, and a continually updated Facebook page.  Christie’s Democratic opponent, State Sen. Barbara Buono, was also quite active on social media and the Internet in general during the race, often relying on YouTube and Twitter to disseminate messages at low cost due to limited campaign funds.  Voters, likewise, had many opportunities to interact with the candidates online throughout the campaign –watching live streaming video of the debates, “liking” or “following” the candidates, reading live blog updates on Election Day, and more.

In our final pre-election poll from October 28 – November 2, we asked some follow-up questions to the 52 percent of voters who said they used the Internet in some way to get information about the governor’s race during the past election season.  These questions explored more in depth what Internet tools this subset accessed to get election news or interact with the candidates.  Internet-using voters were specifically asked about their usage of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs or news sites, and any candidate websites.

Unfortunately, in our first two days of polling, a coding error occurred in this internet source question that prevents us from looking at the details for respondents we interviewed those two days.  We can nonetheless explore responses for the remaining four days when the coding error was corrected.  As it turns out, even if we only look at the last fours days of our poll, we still find 52 percent saying they used the internet for the Gubernatorial campaign. Given the nature of our call center operation, this makes sense, as each day of calling collects a new random sample of NJ voters.

Among the 52 percent who used the internet to get candidate information, about two-thirds said they used one of the specific internet tools we asked about. The other third presumably used other means that we did not include.

Among the voters who used one of the five specified sources, most stuck to using just one or two instead of a combination of them: 58 percent used only one of the tools, 27 percent used two of them, and just 14 percent used three or more.

Candidate websites dominated source usage.  Almost half of all internet-using voters who received the follow-up questions – 45 percent – said they used the candidates’ websites to interact with the candidates or get information about the election.  No other source came close: only 9 percent specifically got information or interacted with the candidates via Twitter, 24 percent via Facebook, 16 percent via YouTube, and 12 percent via blogs or news sites.  When we look at the entire sample including those who do not use the Internet, the number of voters who used each Internet source becomes even smaller: only about 5 percent of all voters used Twitter, 12 percent Facebook, 9 percent YouTube, 6 percent blogs or news sites, and 23 percent candidate websites.

In general, Twitter users were typically the most or the second most likely to use one of the other four specified Internet sources: over two-thirds of Twitter users also used Facebook, over a third also used YouTube, more than 4 in 10 also accessed blogs, and over half also visited candidate websites.  But users of other sources were very unlikely to access Twitter, blog and news visitors being the most likely at 32 percent also using Twitter and candidate website visitors being the least likely at 11 percent also using Twitter.  Users of all sources were highly likely to access Facebook, on the other hand – especially other social media users (Twitter and Facebook).  But candidate websites were the most popular among all types of users, with anywhere from four in ten to six in ten users of other Internet source types visiting these particular sites.

Of course we know that these numbers will fluctuate if we take a closer look within different groups – especially among those groups that we know differ on Internet usage in general.  Therefore, throughout the next few days, some of our undergraduate staff members will take a closer look at how these trends in using the Internet during the governor’s race differ by important voter demographics – in particular, age and gubernatorial vote choice.

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Filed under 2013 NJ Election, NJ Voters

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