Politics as usual? Not exactly, says the Pew Research Centers Internet & American Life Project, which recently polled Americans about their mobile phone usage during the mid-term elections. With mobile connectivity becoming a growing feature in all communications and exchanges of information, said the organization, it was eager to test the depths of this connection in the most recent campaign.
What the center found polling 2,200-plus adult Americans in November was that 71 percent of cell phone owners voted in the election, 14 percent of American adults used their cell phones to tell others that they'd voted, 12 percent used their phones to read about election news or politics and 18 percent of all texting adults used their phones to send election-related information to friends or family.
These political- and tech-minded adults were also more males than females, more young than old, and more financially well-off and better educated than their counterparts. African-Americans were also more likely to be a part of the group than whites or Hispanics.
Those who used their cell phones for political purposes are a high-tech, high-activity group when it comes to using the Internet, states the report. Ninety-two percent of them have broadband at home vs. 60 percent of all adults; 72 percent own laptops vs. 53 percent of all adults; 66 percent own iPods or other MP3 players vs. 43 percent of all adults; 55 percent own gaming consoles vs. 38 percent of all adults; 9 percent own e-book readers; and 10 percent own iPads or another tablet computer.
Additionally, they're heavy users of phone features for texting, emailing, instant messaging and accessing the Internet. Perhaps because they tend be younger than not.
As is true in other realms of mobile connectivity, it was the youngest cell phone owners who in every category were the most active. In the highest response for any area, 58 percent of cell phone owners ages 18 to 29 said they'd used to tell others they'd voted, while the same was said by only 30 percent of 30 to 49 year olds, 19 percent of 50 to 64 year olds and 10 percent of those 65 and older.
What these politically-minded mobile users didn't do, however, was vote more Republican than Democrat, or vice versa. Among the mobile users polled, 44 percent said they'd voted for a Republican congressional candidate, while 44 percent said they'd voted for the Democratic candidate. However, they did skew more to the left when ask about their general partisan preference, with 27 percent saying they're generally Republican and 35 percent saying Democrat.
Ideologically, said the center, these users very much resembled the overall U.S. population, except when it came to Tea Party politics.
Thirty-four percent said they agreed or strongly agreed with the Tea Party movement, and 32 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed with the Tea Party movement, said the study. The rest had no opinion either way. These numbers are somewhat different from those in the general population. Among all adults, 30 percent strongly agreed or agreed with the Tea Party movement and 25 percent strongly disagreed or disagreed.
When it came to cell phone use, however, mobile political users who disagree with the Tea Partiers were more inclined to use their phones to keep up with political news than were those who were on board.
Officials at the center also opined about the link between age, ideology and cell phone use, writing:
"Perhaps because Democratic partisans are somewhat younger as a group than Republican partisans there are a few areas in which those who voted for Democrats in the congressional elections in 2010 were more likely to use their cell phones for campaign-related activities. For instance, 26% of those who voted for congressional Democrats who are also text messagers said they sent texts about the election to others, compared with 19% of those who backed Republican congressional candidates who did that. In addition, 36% of the cell owners who supported Democrats said they used their cells to inform others that they had voted, compared with 24% of the Republican-supporters who used their cells that way."
One fact that did surprise: 21 percent of those who said the'd used their phones to learn about politics or engage with the election, the center found, wound up not voting in the end.