Report: Conservative voters have fewer smartphones, text less

Editor's note: Amy Gahran writes about mobile tech for CNN.com. She is a writer and media consultant based in Boulder, Colorado whose blog, Contentious.com, explores how people communicate in the online age.

Nearly nine out of 10 registered U.S. voters own a cell phone -- almost half of which are smartphones. And many voters are using cell phones to get and share election information or news.

By and large, however, they're not using their phones to connect directly with candidates, parties or interest groups, according to a new report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

In September, Pew surveyed more than 1,000 U.S. adults and found that -- even though text messaging is generally the most popular thing people do with their phones (other than talking) -- texting doesn't appear to be hugely popular in relation to this year's election. This year, fewer than one in five mobile-enabled voters have sent campaign-related text messages to people they know, and only 5% had subscribed to receive text messages directly from a candidate or other group involved in the election.

Furthermore, while 45% of cell-owning registered voters use smartphone apps, only 8% use apps that come from a campaign, political party or interest group.

Overall, self-designated political conservatives appear to be the least advanced, and active, when it comes to mobile technology. Pew found that while liberal, conservative and independent voters are equally likely to own a cell phone, only 40% of conservative voters own a smartphone, significantly fewer than liberal (56%) or moderate (55%) voters. Also, only 68% of conservatives use text messaging, compared to 78% of moderates and 81% of liberals.

Getting news is a popular election-related activity: 27% of cell phone-owning voters do this, especially those under age 50. Liberals (37%) are more likely to get election or political news on their phones than moderates (28%) or conservatives (25%).

But mobile social media is even more popular. Nearly half of smartphone-owning registered voters told Pew that they have used their phone to read others' social media comments about a candidate or the campaign in general. But substantially fewer (18%) make political or election-related social media comments from their phones.

Over a third of smartphone-owning voters use their phones to check whether something they just heard about a candidate or campaign was true. Pew noted that the survey sample size wasn't large enough for a detailed analysis of whether Republicans, Democrats, liberals, conservatives or moderates were most likely to do this kind of on-the-spot fact checking.

The opinions expressed in this post are solely those of Amy Gahran.


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