Democrats More Politically Active than Republicans

October 30, 2008

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Email | Social Media | Technology | Youth & Gen X

Liberal Democratic voters in the US are engaging in far more political activism than other partisan groups and are more strongly connected to the upcoming election than are conservative Republicans or other voters, according to research from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

The study found that nine-in-ten liberal Democrats (91%) say they are giving quite a lot of thought to the elections, while fewer conservative Republicans (84%) say they are doing the same.


Democrats also report more direct political involvement – such as making campaign contributions or attending events – than Republicans, and are far more likely than others to watch online campaign videos or find election information on the internet.


Additional findings:

  • More than a third of liberal Democrats (34%) say they have contributed money to a presidential candidate during the campaign, more than double the percentage of conservative Republicans (13%).
  • More liberal Democrats than conservative Republicans reported attending political events (21% vs. 8%).
  • Six-in-ten liberal Democratic voters say they have watched some form of campaign video (debate, commercial, etc.), compared with 33% of conservative Republicans.
  • 43% of liberal Democrats say they read blogs about politics and the campaign; only about half as many conservative Republicans (22%) say they have read political blogs.

Emotional Reactions to Election

Liberal Democrats are more likely than other voters to say they would have an intense emotional reaction if their candidate does not win. In general, large majorities of Obama supporters and McCain supporters say they would be disappointed and worried if the opposing candidate wins on Nov. 4.

Far more Obama supporters than McCain supporters say they would be angry and depressed if their candidate lost. Nearly four-in-ten Obama supporters (37%) say they would feel angry if McCain won, while 33% say they would feel depressed. Among McCain supporters, just 18% say they would feel angry – and 17% depressed – if Obama wins.

Liberal Democratic supporters of Obama – far more often than other Obama supporters – say that, if McCain prevails, they would experience all of the emotions mentioned. More than half of liberal Democratic supporters of Obama (56%) say they would be angry if McCain wins, compared with 37% of all Obama supporters.

The possibility of an Obama victory generates far less anger among conservative Republicans; just 20% say they would feel angry if Obama wins the election.

Voter Confidence

In general, allegations of possible voter fraud and vote suppression in the upcoming election have stirred modest concern among voters, Pew found. A third of all voters believe that the possibility of ineligible voters casting votes – or of some voters voting multiple times – represents a major problem, and a substantial minority of Republican voters (45%) view this as a major problem. By comparison, just 23% of Democratic voters say the possibility of ineligible voters casting ballots is a major problem.

Fewer voters than in the last presidential election say they are very confident that their vote will be counted accurately (57% vs. 62%). Republicans are less confident of an accurate vote count than in October 2004 (66% now, 75% then). Still, more Republicans than Democrats (54%) say they are very confident their vote will be counted accurately.


Battleground States

The survey finds? both campaigns? devoting the lion’s share of their political outreach efforts to targeting voters in the political battleground states. Fully 62% of voters in these states say they have received mail about one or more of the candidates, while 52% have received pre-recorded telephone calls about the campaign. Far fewer voters in so-called ‘red’ and ‘blue’ states report being inundated with mail and automated calls, Pew said.

In the battleground states, more McCain supporters than Obama supporters say they received mail and pre-recorded phone calls. About six-in-ten McCain supporters in the battleground states (58%) say they have received pre-recorded calls, compared with 47% of Obama supporters.

Comparable percentages of? supporters of both candidates say they have received personal phone calls or been visited at home by someone talking about the campaign.

Online Media Consumption

The internet is playing a large role in the current presidential campaign, both as a source of information for voters, as a means of communication between voters and political organizations, and among voters themselves. The majority of voters (59%) say they have sought out election content online or had some type of online communication about the campaign. Younger voters and Democrats are outpacing older voters and Republicans in using the internet for campaign information and activity.


In December 2007, just 18% of voters said they had exchanged emails about the campaign with friends or family; now 37% have. About a quarter of voters (26%) now say they have received an email from one of the political campaigns or from a political group or organization, up from 17% in December.

There is little partisan difference in the use of email for the campaign, with roughly similar levels of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents saying they have traded campaign-related emails with friends and family, or received emails from political groups. However, liberal Democrats far outpace other groups of partisans, including moderate and conservative Democrats, with 58% having traded emails with family and friends and 43% having received emails from political organizations.

Online Video:
The proportion of voters who have gone online to view videos about the campaign has increased substantially since the start of the election season. Overall, 39% of voters say they have watched some type of campaign-related video online. In December 2007, 24% had done so. There has been an increase in viewing of all types of campaign videos, including candidate speeches (28% now, up from 14%), interviews (27%, up from 14%), campaign commercials (21%, up from 12%), and candidate debates (23% now, 12% in December).

Democrats and Independents outpace Republicans in viewing video about the campaign, with 43% of Democrats (and 60% of liberal Democrats), and 41% of Independents saying they have seen at least some type of election-related video, compared with 35% of Republicans.

Candidate Websites:
Nearly one-in-four voters (23%) have visited a candidate’s website; in November 2007, just 16% had done this.

Some 27% of voters have read blogs about politics and the campaign Among those under age 30, 42% have visited blogs, as have 30% of voters ages 30 to 49 and 24% of Baby Boomers ages 50 to 64. About one-in-ten older voters (9%) have read political or campaign blogs.

Social Networks:
A total of 8% of voters say they have visited a social networking site for campaign information, up two points since last year. Though the overall numbers are small, significantly more Democrats (12%) than Republicans (7%) or independents (5%) have gotten campaign information from social networking sites. Just 4% have signed up as a “friend” of a candidate (vs. 3% in December).

Young Voters

Young voters use the internet more than older voters and are much more likely to go online for certain kinds of political information and activity. Roughly half of voters in all age groups – except those ages 65 or older – have sent or received emails about the election. Among those age 65 or older, only a quarter have sent or received campaign-related emails.

Key findings about young voters:

  • Nearly two-thirds of voters under age 30 (65%) have watched a campaign-related video online.
  • 59% have read blogs, visited candidate websites, or used social networking sites.


  • About half report having watched speeches (48%), interviews (47%) or the debates (47%) online.
  • 36% have watched campaign commercials on the web.
  • More than one-third of older voters, including 41% of those ages 30 to 49 and 34% of those ages 50 to 64, have watched some type of video.

About the survey: The survey was conducted Oct. 16-19, 2008 among 2,599 registered voters interviewed on landline phones and cell phones.


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