Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

From to

Those Active in the Obama Campaign Expect to be Involved in Promoting the Administration

by Aaron Smith, Research Specialist, Pew Internet & American Life Project

Voters expect that the level of public engagement they experienced with Barack Obama during the campaign, much of it occurring online, will continue into the early period of his new administration. A majority of Obama voters expect to carry on efforts to support his policies and try to persuade others to back his initiatives in the coming year; a substantial number expect to hear directly from Obama and his team; and a notable cohort say they have followed the transition online.

These are the key findings of a new survey about public interest in the presidential transition process and voters’ intentions to carry on the national conversation about the incoming administration:

  • 62% of Obama voters expect that they will ask others to support the policies of the new administration over the next year. Among Obama voters who were engaged online during the campaign, 25% expect to support the administration’s agenda by reaching out to others online.
  • 46% of Obama voters and 33% of McCain voters expect to hear directly from their candidate or party leaders over the next year. Fully 51% of online Obama supporters expect some kind of ongoing communication from the new administration — 34% of Obama-supporting email users expect email communication, 37% of social network site users expect SNS updates and 11% of phone texters expect to receive text messages from the new administration.
  • 27% of wired Obama voters have gone online to learn about or get involved with the presidential transition process.1
  • Nine percent of online McCain voters have visited websites hoping to rebuild the GOP or elect conservative candidates in the future.

Background on the survey

This year’s presidential campaign witnessed unprecedented levels of online engagement in the political process as millions of ordinary citizens used the internet to keep informed about politics, donate money, share their views, join communities built around shared interests or objectives and mobilize others in support of their candidate. In the final days of the campaign, our colleagues at the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that 59% of voters had taken part in some sort of campaign activity online: 44% had sent or received campaign-related emails, 39% had watched online political videos and 37% had visited politically-oriented websites or blogs.

In light of this level of online involvement during the election itself, more questions arise about the ability of the Obama team to translate its successful internet political operations into new levels of engagement and activism when Obama assumes the presidency: Will voters who were mobilized during the campaign through email, text messaging and social media such as Facebook remain politically engaged as the immediacy of the campaign turns to more mundane matters of governance? Do those who went online to support the Obama-Biden ticket and mobilize their friends during the election itself expect to remain engaged with the new administration during the transition process and beyond? Similarly, will Republican voters look to the internet as a key component of mobilizing conservative voters and electing GOP candidates in the future?

The Pew Internet Project examined those questions in a survey fielded from November 20 to December 4. Some 2,254 adults were surveyed and the margin of error in the overall sample is plus or minus two percentage points. There were 1,591 internet users in the sample and the margin of error for analysis relating to them is 3 percentage points.

From to — the current state of the online transition

Since Election Day, 15% of all online Americans have visited a website affiliated with the Obama transition effort. In partisan terms, 24% of online Obama voters have visited transition-related websites.2Moreover, even fans of his opponents are going online to see what all the fuss is about — among McCain-Palin voters who go online, 10% have visited a transition website.

In addition to visiting transition websites such as, 6% of online Obama voters have signed up to receive email updates about the transition or the new administration, and an additional 5% have joined or participated in email lists or online groups discussing the new administration.

Taken together, this means that 27% of wired Obama voters have gone online to get information or participate in discussions about the presidential transition process.

Prior online involvement during the presidential race is strongly predictive of online voter engagement during the transition process. Among those Obama voters who got online news about the election or were politically active online during the campaign (we refer to these individuals as online political users), 33% have gone online to track or discuss the transition process during the post-election period. By contrast, among Obama voters who use the internet but were not politically engaged during election season, just 4% have gone online to learn about or share their thoughts on the new administration.

Otherwise, online Obama supporters with different demographic and socio-economic characteristics tend to use the internet to keep up with the transition at roughly similar rates. The primary exception is older voters, who have not kept up with the transition at the same rate as younger Obama supporters, even among the cohort of seniors who go online.


Of course, the Obama administration is not the only political entity to go live since Election Day. On the other side of the partisan divide, the online Republican community has been debating how to mobilize conservative voters and elect GOP candidates in the future, both on existing sites like and on new entities such as

In all, 5% of online Americans (and 9% of Republicans who go online) have visited websites related to efforts to rebuild the GOP. As was seen with Obama voters, GOP voters with prior exposure to the online political debate during election season are much more heavily involved in online post-election efforts than GOP voters who use the internet but are not engaged in the online political debate. Some 11% of politically-engaged internet users who supported McCain have visited such sites, compared with fewer than 1% of McCain voters who use the internet but are not politically engaged online.3


As campaigning becomes governing, voters continue to expect direct communication with their preferred candidate or party leaders

In the 2008 election campaign, candidates increasingly relied on tools such as email and text messaging to reach out directly to supporters outside of the media or traditional communications channels such as television or radio.

Obama supporters in particular have a strong expectation that these communications will continue as the new administration takes office. Fully 46% of all Obama voters (and 51% of those who go online) expect to hear directly from Barack Obama or other officials affiliated with the new administration at least occasionally over the next year, and 15% of Obama voters expect to hear from the new administration on at least a weekly basis.

Notably, Obama supporters who use email and social networking sites not only expect continued communication with the administration through these channels, they also expect these communications to occur with greater frequency than mail or telephone contacts.

  • 37% of Obama voters who use social networking sites expect to receive updates from the administration on these sites. Most expect to receive these updates on either a weekly (12%) or monthly (11%) basis, while 14% expect them to occur less frequently.
  • 34% of Obama voters who use email expect to hear from the new administration via email. One in ten (10%) expect to receive these email contacts on a weekly basis, and 9% expect to do so monthly.
  • 38% of all Obama voters expect to hear from the administration via mail. Some 7% expect to receive mail from the new administration on a weekly basis and 12% expect to do so monthly, while 19% expect to be contacted by mail just a few times a year.
  • 17% of all Obama voters expect to receive phone calls from the new administration at least occasionally. Just 2% expect to receive phone calls on a weekly basis, and most (10%) would prefer these communications to take place a few times a year.
  • 11% of Obama voters who own cell phones and use text messaging expect to be contacted by text messaging, with most (6%) preferring that these text message contacts occur less than once a month.

At the moment, McCain supporters do not have the same expectations of regular direct contact with their party or its leaders as Obama supporters. One-third (33%) of McCain voters expect to have such contact at least occasionally over the next year in one form or another (vs. 46% of Obama voters), while just 4% expect to be contacted on a weekly basis (vs. 15% of Obama voters). The differences between Obama and McCain voters are particularly pronounced when it comes to online contact. Tech-using Obama supporters have a much greater expectation of direct future contact with their “team” than do tech-using McCain voters.


The role of the internet in future voter engagement

A large number of Americans intend to carry on the campaign debate into the first year of the Obama administration. Some 31% of Americans say they expect to ask other people to support some Obama policies in personal conversations; 16% say they expect to ask others to back President Obama in phone conversations; and 10% say they expect to ask others to support Obama using online methods.

A significant majority of voters who supported the Obama-Biden ticket are also prepared to encourage others to support the new administration’s policy agenda. Among those who voted for the Democratic presidential ticket in the fall, 62% expect to ask others to support at least some of the new administration’s policies. Roughly half (48%) expect to do so in person, one-quarter (25%) expect to do so on the phone, and 16% expect to do so online.4

Reflecting the campaign’s focus on online mobilization and voter engagement, those Obama voters who were highly engaged in the online campaign expect to be particularly engaged in promoting the administration’s agenda, especially online. Among online political users who voted for the Obama ticket, fully 68% say that they expect to press others to support the new administration’s policies in the coming year. Fully 25% of these engaged online activists say that they will likely use the internet to encourage others to support president Obama’s policy agenda in the year ahead.


View the topline and survey methodology at


1 Throughout this report, “wired” voters refer to those who go online.

2 Of those in our survey who voted in the presidential race, 50% voted for the Obama-Biden ticket. Among these Obama voters, 76% are internet users. Therefore, online Obama voters represent 38% of voters in our survey (and 30% of the total sample).

3 Of those in our survey who voted in the presidential race, 36% voted for the McCain/Palin ticket. Among McCain voters, 83% are internet users. Therefore, online McCain voters represent 30% of voters in our survey (and 24% of the total sample).

4 Note: Totals may exceed 100% due to multiple responses.

Icon for promotion number 1

Sign up for our weekly newsletter

Fresh data delivery Saturday mornings

Icon for promotion number 1

Sign up for The Briefing

Weekly updates on the world of news & information