The Internet, the Gubernatorial Election, and Vote Choice
Caitie Sullivan and Mihir Dixit
Caitlin Sullivan is a data visualization and graphic representation intern at the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and a senior at Rutgers-New Brunswick with plans to graduate in January 2014. Mihir Dixit is also a data visualization intern. He is a first year undergraduate student in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers.
Both gubernatorial candidates this past election cycle in New Jersey were quite tech savvy throughout the campaign – maintaining Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, YouTube channels, and more. It is therefore interesting to take a look at how big a role the Internet played among the electorate and how voters differently used the Internet throughout the campaign to learn about and interact with the candidates. While Christie’s frequent usage of the web – particularly social media – is widely known, his supporters this past election season were surprisingly not as “connected” to the Internet as their governor or Buono supporters. Whether Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or blogs and news sites, those Internet users who voted for Buono were more likely than Christie voters to say they used these online tools.
The differences between Christie and Buono voters in what online tools they use mainly stem from social media usage. More Internet-using Buono voters than Christie voters used Twitter to keep track of the election – 12 percent versus 7 percent. There was also a clear difference in the percentage of Internet-using voters for each candidate who reported using Facebook to monitor the election. Twenty-one percent of Christie voters used Facebook to acquire information about the race, versus 26 percent of Buono voters. The widest margin between Christie voters and Buono voters was for YouTube. While the video sharing website remained unpopular with 12 percent of Christie voters, almost double the number of Buono voters – 22 percent – reported having used it as an informational resource. Christie and Buono voters were more similar in their use of blogs or news websites: 12 percent of Christie voters and 13 percent of Buono voters said they used this source for election-related news.
These differences in online sources are most likely attributable to the different characteristics underlying Christie voters and Buono voters and not necessarily directly to the vote choice itself. Despite Christie’s frequent activity online, his supporters – many who are Republicans like Christie – tend to be older and therefore not as likely to use the Internet and especially social media. Buono supporters, on the other hand, are made up of mainly Democrats and younger voters, who are especially prone to using the Internet. Therefore, the differing usage of these various Internet tools between Christie voters and Buono voters may be more about the demographics typically most associated with each candidate’s party than simply who they would vote for in the election.