It’s an election year in the United States, so it’s not surprising that political discussions on social networking sites are on the rise, but how important are social networking sites to the political environment? Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project provides some insight into just how influential and important social networking is to Americans.

As you might expect, the study results show that the more politically-engaged a person is offline, the more politically engaged he is on social networks. Furthermore, Democrats are more likely to say that social networking sites are important to their political activities than Republicans and Independents. Younger users (18-29) are also more likely to say social networking is important to them than older users, and African Americans are more likely than whites to say social networking sites are important for their political activities.

The chart below shows a variety of activities that survey respondents rated in the Pew Research Center study.

politics and social networking chart

According to the study findings in the above chart, several more key statistics have been revealed, including:

  • 36% of social networking site users believe those sites are “very important” or “somewhat important” to them in keeping up with political news.
  • 26% of social networking site users feel that those sites are “very important” or “somewhat important” to them for recruiting people to get involved in political issues.
  • 25% of social networking site users believe that those sites are “very important” or “somewhat important” for debating or discussing political issues with other people.
  • 25% of social networking site users say that those sites are “very important” or “somewhat important” to them for finding other people with similar political views.

Social networking sites also motivate people to action. One out of four survey respondents indicated that they have become more active in a political issue after talking about it or reading about it on a social networking site.

Clearly, authoritative political content is in demand and can influence public opinion. This study proves that the role of social networking in politics is extremely important and growing rapidly, but there is still a great deal of growth and opportunity ahead.