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Posted by on Sep 15, 2009 in Media, Science & Technology, Society | 3 comments

Internet Empowers Elites or Joe Public?


I’m surprised to read that Pew finds the Internet has actually shifted more power to the educated, well-to-do citizens already engaged in the political process:

In a survey conducted in late August 2008, Pew found that only 8 percent of people with a household income of less than $20,000 had participated in two or more online political activities—emailing their representatives, donating money through a political campaign or group’s Website, or signing an online petition—in the past year, as opposed to 35 percent of those with an income of $100,000 or more. A similar 33-percentage-point gap emerged between college graduates and those without a high school degree. In other words, much to the disappointment of the report’s authors, higher-income, more educated people were just as likely to dominate civic engagement online as they were offline (click here for a graph showing this mirror effect). […]

Even at Daily Kos, an original member of the democratically dogmatic Netroots, elite users dominate the discourse. Daily Kos readers, who also post content and comments on the site, have slid comfortably into the traditional civic participation demographic: 84 percent are over 35 years old, 86 percent have gone to college, and 72 percent earn over $60,000. Twitter, the New York Times reported recently, has attracted a similar demographic of older and more professional users. Facebook, too, has drawn ever increasing numbers of 35-and-over adults, and a good majority of its users rest in the upper income bracket.

So are the battle lines now drawn between the cable & radio crowd vs. internet & social network set? Do we think that will one day change? Advantage/disadvantage one side over the other?

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  • redbus

    Joe, these findings aren’t terribly surprising, really. Who used to get a newspaper? It was the educated crowd. Now we go on the internet for our news, and papers are folding. The word “elite” has probably been wrongly exclusively associated with the Democratic party, but is really a two-party phenomenon when it comes to the internet. I’m thinking here of sites like National Review , Weekly Standard, and Little Green Footballs. In 2012, I think you’ll see much less of a gap between the two parties when it comes to utilizing internet technologies to rally the troops, even if the GOP skews more toward e-mail more than the Dems.

  • Don Quijote

    With broadband access costing approximately $50.00 a month, is it a surprise that people making 20K a year have better things to spend their money on (food, rent, health-insurance).

    The Sad State of U.S. Broadband

    But challenges of wiring remote communities don’t tell the whole story. The OECD also found that U.S. broadband providers charge more than those in many developed nations. Broken down by megabit per second of download speed, U.S. rates ranged from $2.83 to $38.41 in late 2007. Rates in Japan started as low as 13¢ for one megabit per second, while France, Sweden, Korea, Finland, Australia, and others all start off at lower prices than the U.S. Furthermore, residents of European and Asian countries tend to have access to far speedier broadband options than Americans.

    And once more Corporate America fleeces the public…

  • Silhouette

    This is a false assumption. The effects are more subtle. Think of the internet like how the phone was back when it was invented. It took awhile for them to reach the rural areas and even then some of the houses in the area where I live had no phone service up until just a few decades ago, since I was born. The internet is a communication device, a marketplace, an information dispensary where more and more people at a younger age simply use it without thinking. And there’s the hinge. For better or worse people are being exposed to more information at a younger age; the net result of which is a higher overall education whether they’re after it or not. Instead of thinking of a subject that interests you [like when I was younger] and having to get in a car, drive to a library, wade through the card catalog, find the book and finally read one author’s perspective on the subject, now young people of all walks can enter a few keywords sitting on their butts with a packet of cheetos and soda spilling on the table next to them at home and within less than two seconds have an entire world library in front of them to read twelve author’s perspectives in the time it took us old geezers to negotiate traffic to read just one.This more massive exposure to information is raising the overall awareness and intellect regardless of the person’s economic opportunity. Nearly everyone has or can at least gain access to a PC and go online. Information is power as they say and the internet really is Power to the People. The old guard underestimated this and factually, this is what is unravelling their stronghold, not strengthening it.High or low speed, any speed is better than the old days of dusty books, drives and lack of incentive to get to the library. I have several rural friends on dialup and they’re just fine with it. Beats nothing at all and they probably just multitask between page loads if I know them…lol…do the laundry, wait for the page to load. Do dishes wait for the page to load. Make a sandwich, wait for the page to load and so on.

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