Some very interesting findings have emerged from a survey conducted by SS&K and Advertising Age of 1,997 New Hampshire voters reveals firstly that no media is dominant for voters seeking information on which to base their choice. 56% saw TV ads from the candidates, 51% watched TV debates and/or news analysis of the debates, 40% saw the candidates on talk shows or other TV appearances and 47% said they read articles or newspapers featuring a candidate. The researchers note that New Hampshire has the most involved voters who take the primaries seriously, but that there are indications that online communication is reaching a significant level of voters.
While most prominent among under 30s voters, 40% of adults visited a candidate's home page on the web (52% of under 30s), 26% of all respondents regardless of age visited a candidate's profile on a social-networking site (36% of those under 30 and 15% of those over 30), but interestingly out of those who visited a candidate's Facebook or MySpace profile significant numbers befriended them or became supporters. Obama gained 38%, Clinton 28%, McCain 41% and Romney 33%; so between 500 and 730 of those polled. If representative of the broader electorate this could explain the numbers of social network supporters. Similarly there seems to be a lot of traffic visiting the range of online presences candidates now offer (see table below).
The full details and commentary is available from Adage.com, but whatever happens it suggests that candidates and parties are increasingly likely to include social networking as much as websites and emails. While it will be as hard, if not harder, to prove any effect of social networking for a political campaign; no candidate will dare ignore it anymore than traditional media and due to it being free may well see it as a good way of focusing on the floating voter, possibly with lower interest in politics, but whose support could be crucial if mobilised.