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More Americans Log On For Campaign News, Study Finds

One-third of Americans say they regularly or sometimes learn political news from the Internet, an increase of 9 percent since the last presidential election, according to the poll that the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press released Sunday.

Thirteen percent of about 1,500 adults surveyed said the Internet was their chief source of campaign news — double the number from four years ago.

Young adults were leading the shift, with one-fifth saying they consider the Internet a top source of campaign news, the study said.

Among those younger than 30, one in five also reported regularly learning about the campaign from such comedy programs as Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” and “Saturday Night Live” — doubling the number from four years ago, the study found.

Of all Internet users surveyed, 7 percent have participated in online campaign activities such as contributing to discussion groups, signing petitions, or donating money.

Television news remained the dominant source for political news, but the Pew study found a significant decline in Americans who regularly got their campaign information from such traditional news outlets.

Around 42 percent of Americans said they regularly learned about the campaign from local television, down from 48 percent in 2000; about 35 percent from nightly network news, down from 45 percent; 31 percent from newspapers, down from 40 percent; and 10 percent from news magazines, down from 15 percent.

Only cable news networks grew as a regular information source among other traditional media outlets, with 38 percent, up from 34 percent in 2000, calling it a top source for campaign news.

Most often mentioned among that group was CNN (22 percent) and Fox News (20 percent).

Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center, explained the shift as a result of the proliferation of online news sites and cable news programs.

“Cable news and the Internet are looming larger as sources of campaign information as fewer people say they’re getting news from traditional sources such as newspapers and broadcast television,” Kohut said.

Another reason for the change could be an increasing concern about bias in campaign coverage, the Pew study said.

The number of Americans who believe coverage from news organizations is biased has grown steadily since 1988, when 62 percent said coverage was not biased. The study found this change especially notable among Democrats, with 29 percent saying the news favored Republicans, an increase from 19 percent in 2000. The GOP remained consistent in saying coverage favored Democrats, at 42 percent.

Despite these numbers among party members, Americans in general were divided over whether news organizations skewed campaign coverage, with 38 percent saying there was no bias and 39 percent finding bias.

“Democrats think the media are giving President Bush a free pass,” Kohut told Howard Kurtz, The Washington Post’s media reporter. “For years most of the discontent was on the Republican side, and now it’s bipartisan.”

The results come from a survey of 1,506 adults, of which 1,002 are Internet users, conducted Dec. 19-Jan. 4. The poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, larger for subgroups.

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