1 in 4 Americans Uses Cell Phone for Politics

December 29, 2010

pew-mobile-politics-dec-2010.JPGMore than a quarter of American adults (26%) used their cell phones to learn about or participate in the 2010 mid-term election campaign, according to findings from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. The mobile political user group is more male than female, young than old, better off financially than less well-off, and better educated than less well-educated. African-Americans are also more likely than whites or Hispanics to be in this group.

Young Have Highest Rate of Mobile Political Engagement

Dividing Americans by different demographic characteristics, those age 18-29 (39%) are the most likely to engage in politics via cell phone. Other groups with high rates of mobile political engagement include those with a household income of $75,000 or more (38%), black non-Hispanic (36%), post-college education (35%) and men (29%).

The lowest rate of mobile political engagement is found among those age 65 and older (9%). The only other group with an engagement rate below 20% is adults without a high school diploma (15%).

Young Use Cell Phone More for Variety of Political Activities

pew-mobile-politics-young-adult-dec-2010.JPGAmericans age 18-29 use their cell phone more than older Americans for a wide range of political activities. Most notably, 58% of Americans 18-29 who voted in the November 2010 midterms informed others via cell phone they voted. Only 30% of the group with the next-highest rate of performing this activity, 30-to-49-year-olds, did so.

For each mobile activity Pew researched, the youngest respondents had the highest engagement level, which gradually declined with each older age bracket, reaching its lowest level among the oldest respondents. The closest gap for any activity was one percentage point, as 14% of 18-to-29-year-olds and 13% of 30-to-49-year-olds let others know about conditions and problems at their voting locations.

Other Findings

Fully 82% of American adults say they have cell phones, and 71% of them use text messaging. Some 39% of cell owners also use their handheld devices to access the internet. In addition:

  • 14% of all American adults used their cell phones to tell others that they had voted. Some 71% of cell owners voted in the election, so that amounts to 27% of the mobile phone users who voted.
  • 12% of adults used their cell phones to keep up with news about the election or politics. That amounts to 15% of cell-phone owners.
  • 10% of adults sent text messages relating to the election to friends, family members and others. That means that 18% of those who use text messaging sent texts for these purposes.
  • 6% of adults used their cells to let others know about conditions at their local voting stations on election day, including insights about delays, long lines, low turnout, or other issues. That means 10% of the cell owners who voted in the election used their mobile phones that way.
  • 4% of adults used their phones to monitor results of the election as they occurred. That is 5% of cell owners.
  • 3% of adults used their cells to shoot and share photos or videos related to the election. That is 4% of cell owners.
  • 2% of adults used a cell-phone app that provided updates from a candidate or group about election news.
  • 1% of adults contributed money by text message to a candidate or group connected to the election like a party or interest group.

Youngest Smartphone Owners Game Most

In addition to using their cell phones more for political purposes, young Americans also appear to use cell phones for more gaming. The youngest smartphone owners have the highest overall rate for gaming on their smartphones and game the most often, according to recent data from Compete. Looking at smartphone gaming trends by age bracket, it becomes obvious that smartphone owners younger than 25 dominate the world of smartphone gaming. A total of 81% of smartphone owners who have not celebrated their 25th birthday engage in smartphone gaming, compared to 76% of smartphone owners 25-44 and only 56% of smartphone owners 45 and older.

About the Data: The results reported here come from a survey of 2,257 adults conducted November 3 through November 24, 2010. Among them, 1,918 are cell phone users.

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