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Survey: Internet established as major news source in 2000 elections

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Nearly one in five Americans got election news online during the 2000 campaign, a dramatic increase from four years ago as the medium established itself as a major news source, according to a study released Sunday by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

Eighteen percent of Americans said they went online for election news in 2000, up from only 4 percent in 1996, the center survey states. Of those who actually had online access, 33 percent got election news online, compared to 22 percent in 1996.

The survey also showed a mainstream shift in the reasons people got election news online. In 1996, online news was considered an alternative information source -- 53 percent of online users surveyed in 1996 said they used online news because other media did not provide enough news.

But that number dropped to 29 percent in 2000. In this election cycle, 56 percent of online news users said they used the medium because the information was more convenient. That was an increase from 45 percent in 1996.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the effect of online campaign news appears strongest among the young. Half of those under 30 surveyed for the report said the information they received online made them want to vote for or against a candidate.

They survey also noted a strong increase in the use of online news as the election neared. Twelve percent of Americans got political news online on Election Day, while 18 percent got news there the day after the election. That is a more than 400 percent increase over normal traffic for political news, according to the survey. In the week after the election, between 11 percent and 15 percent of all Americans followed election news online, the survey said.

Major news outlets dominate online news coverage, according to the survey. Fifty-five percent of election news consumers said they went to local or national online news organizations for coverage, while 27 percent got news from major commercial online services and 19 percent used specialized political, government, candidate or issue-oriented web sites.

CNN.com was cited as the most popular site for campaign news. Nearly 25 percent named CNN.com as their primary web site for election news. It was followed by America Online at 16 percent, Yahoo at 8 percent, MSNBC.com at 6 percent and Microsoft/MSN at 4 percent. CNN also topped a survey of all respondents when asked whether they had ever visited a specific web site for news or information about the 2000 election, and the site also topped a survey of respondents who were asked which web sites they found very useful.

Candidate web sites trailed badly to media sites in terms of overall visits. Only 8 percent of online users and 28 percent of election news users visited the site of a candidate or campaign to get news or information about the 2000 elections, the survey stated. The numbers were even lower for the sites of the two major presidential candidates, with 7 percent of online users saying they visited the Bush/Cheney site, and 6 percent saying they visited the Gore/Lieberman site.


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Monday, December 4, 2000

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