Technology

The 2008 Vote: Why MySpace Matters


Users of the No. 1 social network show they're much more likely to engage with Presidential candidates on the Web than online adults overall

The MySpace generation is politically engaged, gets a lot of political information online, and is concerned about the war on terror. Users of the popular Web site for socialization will be out in force in the 2008 Presidential elections. Those are among the findings in a survey of users of News Corp.'s (NWS) MySpace, the world's largest social network.

"We want to get a temperature reading of the MySpace users, how engaged they are and what issues are important to them," says Lee Brenner, director of MySpace IMPACT, the division running the site's political and civic interactions with its users. The results, released Dec. 13, are the first of what will be a monthly reading of the political atmosphere among users of the social network, which boasts 70 million unique visitors a month.

Online Sources

So what is important to MySpace users? For starters, they're concerned about the war on terror and the economy, in that order. Among respondents, 36% of Democrats, 38% of Republicans, and 30% of Independents said the war is the most important issue; 29% of Democrats and 28% of Republicans listed the economy as top of mind. Democrats are more concerned about the environment, while more Republicans name immigration as important.

MySpace users are highly likely to get informed on politics via the Web. Compared with the general population of online adults, MySpace users are 139% more likely to visit an online chat room with public officials or political candidates and 50% more likely to watch a political or public affairs-related video online. They're also 29% more likely to have looked up political or campaign information on the Internet. Among respondents, 86% say they are "extremely likely" or "likely" to vote in the 2008 Presidential election.

The findings validate efforts by candidates (BusinessWeek.com, 6/18/07) to use social networks to rally supporters. Candidates from Hillary Clinton to Mitt Romney have "friend" pages, conduct online chats and forums, and are tapping a wide range of other interactive Web tools (BusinessWeek.com, 1/22/07) to solicit votes. "Younger people are more engaged in a lot of the issues than ever before," says Brenner. "Politicians often neglect this demographic… If they [neglect them] now, it's at their own peril."

An Independent Bent

MySpace plans to run its own Presidential primary on Jan. 1 and 2, so the survey avoided asking respondents to pick a winner, but the results indicate greater disaffection with the Republican Party and a higher propensity toward voting Independent than among the general population. Of those who voted for George Bush in 2004, 25% plan to vote Democrat, while 18% of those who voted for John Kerry in '04 plan to vote Republican in 2008. Among respondents, 27% define themselves as Independents, compared with 8% of the general population.

MySpace has been using its site as a forum for airing political and candidate views. Users can get updates from candidate profile pages and hosted dialogues with Presidential hopefuls. These forums include unfiltered questions from college audiences both live and through instant messaging. So far, Democratic hopefuls Barack Obama and John Edwards and Republican John McCain have participated in the series.

The survey results were from a random sampling of 876 users who will be eligible to vote in the general election. On average, the respondents were 25 years old.

Lehman is a reporter for BusinessWeek in New York .

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