Voters turn to mobile phones this election season

Mobile devices are becoming an increasingly important channel for voters to seek out information about the political candidates and campaigns ahead of next month’s presidential election, a new survey from the Pew Internet and American Life Project reports.

According to Pew’s findings, 88 percent of registered voters have some kind of cell phone, and, of those, 27 percent say that they have used their mobile device to seek out news of politics or the campaign.

Just slightly less than half of mobile phone owners said they have a smartphone, at 48 percent, and, of those, 45 percent say they had used their device to check into a social networking site to read other users’ comments about the campaign or a candidate. Eighteen percent say that they had used their smartphones to post comments about the campaign on a social networking site.

Many voters are also using their smartphones to fact-check the claims of candidates or members of their campaigns. Among smartphone owners, 35 percent said they used their devices to investigate the campaigns’ assertions in real time.

Three-quarters of voters with mobile phones say that they use their devices to send text messages, and 19 percent report having sent messages concerning the campaign to family members, friends or other contacts.

The numbers dropped considerably when Pew asked the survey respondents about their direct engagement with players in the campaign. Only 5 percent said they had registered with a candidate or politically active group to receive messages directly from the operation, while an equal proportion reported receiving unsolicited and unwanted messages from a candidate or group. For most respondents, the unwanted messages only arrived very infrequently.

And of the respondents who report owning a smartphone and using apps, just 8 percent said that they had downloaded and used an app from a candidate, party or interest group to keep up with the campaign.

When the researchers considered the usage patterns of voters across the political spectrum, they found few significant differences.

“There are few differences in overall mobile phone ownership and usage related to political affiliation or ideology. Democratic, Republican and independent voters are all equally likely to own a cell phone, to own a smartphone, to use text messaging, and to use or download apps,” write Aaron Smith and Maeve Duggan, the authors of the report. “However, liberal voters are more likely than conservatives to own a smartphone or to use text messaging (although liberals and conservatives are equally likely to own a cell phone of any kind).”

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