AP Poll: Voters Turning to Web for Political News

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The number of people who go online for political news is rising, with more than one-third saying they check the Internet for such information.

This group is more likely to be younger, better educated and male than the population in general, an Associated Press-AOL News poll found.

While 35 percent say they check the Internet for political updates about campaigns and candidates, that number grows to 43 percent of likely voters — and they tend to be more liberal than conservative.

With the Nov. 7 elections nearing, the online audience is getting deluged with e-mail and election updates from news, campaign and political Web sites.

People who use the Web point to the convenience, the variety of information and the range of intense emotion available online.

“I look on the Internet fairly frequently,” said Pim Friedhoff, an independent from Newport, Ky. He describes himself as a conservative and spends about an hour a day on the Web.

“I look everywhere — newspaper sites, online magazines, candidate’s Web sites,” he said. “I look at a lot of voting records. It matters to me, and I hate liars.”

The most popular destinations are the news sites, such as those run by newspapers, networks and newsmagazines, with nine of 10 in the online political audience saying they go there. Just over one-third go to candidate’s sites and almost half check out political sites.

The poll found:

* four in 10 men search the Web for political news, compared with three in 10 women.

* about four in 10 of those under age 50 search the Web for political news, compared with fewer than two in 10 of those 65 and over.

* more than half of those with college degrees look to the Web for politics, compared with one-third of those who have some college, and fewer than one in six with a high school education or less.

For independent Laurie Mottle of Danielson, Conn., the political sites offer an outlet for her growing anger at the Bush administration.

“There are things you see on the Web that you don’t see anywhere else,” said Mottle, who looks for sites that share her point of view.

While online browsers go to a wide variety of sites, they overwhelmingly are more inclined to believe what they see on the newspaper and network news sites.

Seven in 10 said such sites run by news organizations are the most trustworthy, according to the poll of 2,000 adults and 699 online political browsers. The survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, 4 percent for online political browsers.

The number who go online has grown from about one-quarter in this country six years ago, according to findings in 2000 from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. Fewer than half of those who go online are regular users of the Web for political news.

For all the noise made by the political bloggers, a relatively small slice of the population is contributing to the blogs, an online journal or newsletter, and chats.

Only one in 10 of those who browse online for politics participate in the blogs — though more than twice that many check them out.

Chuck Gerlach, a Republican-leaning businessman from Alpharetta, Ga., likes to check out both the news sites and the blogs for political updates. “You tend to get both sides of the story just reading blogs,” he said.

One reason for the popularity of the Web to monitor politics is convenience.

“I check out political news online because I can get the news right then,” said Alan Kirby, a high school teacher and political independent from St. Louis.

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