The Digital (Political) Divide

Pew Study Details Key Areas

WASHINGTON — The Obama Administration has long touted the broadband rollout as a way to expand political engagement by giving a voice to the voiceless and boosting participation in the electronic town square.

That might ultimately come to pass. But according to a just-released Pew Research Center Internet & American Life Project study, the traditional political activities that skew toward the better-educated, financially-well-off holds true for online engagement as well.

According to Pew, the higher-educated, higher-income demographic is “consistently more likely” to engage in online civic behaviors. Those include many the administration has been looking to foster more broadly. Pew said the study showed the digital engagement divide was particularly pronounced in the following:

• “Working with fellow citizens to solve a problem in one’s community;

• “Attending a political meeting on local, town or school affairs;

• “Being an active member of a group that tries to influence public policy or government;

• “Attending a political rally or speech;

• “Working or volunteering for a political party or candidate; Contacting a government official about an issue that is important to you (both online and offline)

• “Signing a petition (both digitally and on paper)

• “Commenting on a news story or blog post online.”

On the upside, the study also found that for social-network users, political participation for the lowest and highest income users was virtually identical.