When it comes to politics, Americans generally behave online as they do in the “real” world. In today’s context, that means people on either end of the political spectrum are the most likely to engage in political activism, while moderates are more likely to sit on the sidelines.
That’s the main takeaway from this morning’s presentation by Aaron Smith of the Pew Research Internet Project at the Public Affairs Council Social Media and Advocacy Summit. Smith emphasized that those citizens on the end of either pole of political ideology are also the social media subscribers who most regularly post or interact with political content on Facebook, Twitter, or elsewhere. Most in the middle, meanwhile, tend to steer clear of such behaviors. “Social media offers a way to find, identify, and reach your “super fans,” he noted in a slide. But many moderates “probably don’t really know or care very much about your particular issue.”
Those unengaged moderates can be activated to action. That process is best done at the personal behest of a super fan.
Smith’s slides are up on the Pew website. They include a wealth of information from the center’s Internet research project. The conference is still going on, too — follow #SMAS14 on Twitter for the latest, including a presentation this afternoon by Roll Call editor-in-chief Christina Bellantoni!