Polifluentials Report


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Polifluentials Report

  1. 1. POLI-FLUENTIALS THE NEW POLITICAL KINGMAKERS Th e G r a d uat e S c h o o l o f Po l i t i c a l M a nag e m e n tS c h o o l o f Po l i t i c a l M a nag e m e n tS P M
  2. 2. POLI-FLUENTIALS: THE NEW POLITICAL KINGMAKERS INSTITUTE FOR POLITICS, DEMOCRACY & THE INTERNET The Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet thanks its sponsors, without whose support this publication would not have been possible.
  4. 4. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Poli-fluentials: The New Political Kingmakers is a publication of GW’s Institute for Politics, De- mocracy & the Internet. Carol Darr, former director of the Institute, and Joseph Graf are the principal editors of this publication. They also assisted with the research and writing. F. Christopher Arterton (Interim Di- rector, IPDI), Peter Churchill (Center for American Progress), Daniel Bennett (Practitioner-in-Res- idence), John Purcell (Senior Visiting Fellow), Ed Trelinski, John Neurohr, Riki Parikh and Ryan Sullivan (former research assistants), and Daniel Martin and Emily Ginsberg (MSHC Partners) assisted with writing, creating, compiling and editing the study. Chris Brooks (financial manager), Alex Kellner, Justin Beckley, Sam Levenback and Chris Wimbush (research assistants) provided additional editing. Additional thanks to Tkeyah Lake and Khadijah Lake for providing additional research and assistance. We thank all of our authors: Julie Barko Germany of IPDI; Amy Gershkoff and Hal Malchow of MSHC Partners; Alan Rosenblatt of the Center for American Progress; Jordan Schlacter of the Yahoo! Media Sales Research team; and Doris Spielthenner, Neal Gorenflo, and Harald Katzmair of FAS Research. Their opinions do not necessarily reflect those of the Institute. We especially thank our sponsors: Adfero; @dvocacy, Inc.; BlogAds; Centro; FAS.research; Kesem Technology; MSHC Partners; On Deck Communication Studio; John Robert Porter; Salem Communications; 720 Strategies, the Talk Radio News Service; WashingtonPost.NewsweekInter- active; and Yahoo! The project would not have been possible without the advice and assistance of many individu- als at The George Washington University, including Leody Bojanowski, Joseph Bondi, Elliot Hir- shman, Anne Hirshfield, William Howard, Virginia Hodges, David Parenti, Linda Schutjer, and especially Christopher Arterton, Donald Lehman, and Roger Whitaker. We also wish to thank Roger Stone, Carolyn Carlson, and Vidisha Wahi at @dvocacy, Inc; Martin Block, James Fountleroy and Sacha Clayton of Kesem Technology; Richard Kosinski, Bet- tina Cisneros, Theresa LaMontagne, Michele Madansky, and Edwin Wong at Yahoo!, Eileen Krill at WashingtonPost.NewsweekInteractive, David Shiffman of AOL: Lee Rainie of the Pew Internet & American Life Project; Mark Naples of WIT Strategies; and Ian Koski of On Deck Communica- tion Studio. IPDI is the premier research and advocacy center for the study and promotion of online politics in a manner that encourages citizen participation and is consistent with democratic principles. IPDI is non-partisan and non-profit and is part of the Graduate School of Political Management at the George Washington University. F. Christopher Arterton is dean of the school. For more infor- mation about the Graduate School of Political Management, visit www.gwu.edu/~gspm. For more information about the Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet, visit http:// www.ipdi.org. © GW’s Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet. “Poli-fluentials” is a trademark of The George Washington University. The editors are Carol Darr and Joseph Graf. The date of publication is October 4, 2007. POLI-FLUENTIALS: THE NEW POLITICAL KINGMAKERS INSTITUTE FOR POLITICS, DEMOCRACY & THE INTERNET
  6. 6. INSTITUTE FOR POLITICS, DEMOCRACY & THE INTERNET INTRODUCTION ................................................................................................................... 1 CHAPTER ONE Demographics .................................................................................................................... 7 CHAPTER TWO Party Poli-fluentials: Initial Thoughts on the Differences across Parties......... 13 CHAPTER THREE News Consumption: Old Media, New Media and Poli-fluentials .....................17 CHAPTER FOUR Technology Adoption and Poli-fluentials ............................................................ 23 CHAPTER FIVE Toward a New Paradigm: Understanding Political Influencers........................ 27 CHAPTER SIX New Possibilities in Mobilizing Political Influencers ......................................... 33 CHAPTER SEVEN How Poli-fluentials Live Their Lives: Lifestyle, Hobbies, Interests ................... 39 METHODOLOGY .................................................................................................................. 43 CONTRIBUTORS ................................................................................................................. 44 TABLE OF CONTENTS POLI-FLUENTIALS: THE NEW POLITICAL KINGMAKERS INSTITUTE FOR POLITICS, DEMOCRACY & THE INTERNET
  8. 8. POLI-FLUENTIALS: THE NEW POLITICAL KINGMAKERS | PAGE 1 INSTITUTE FOR POLITICS, DEMOCRACY & THE INTERNET The purpose of this research is to shed light on the American adults who will be the most active in the 2008 election – the likeliest to volunteer, donate, promote can- didates and join causes through both online and word- of-mouth advocacy. We call this sought-after group of political activists “Poli-fluentials™” in recognition of their involvement in politics as well as their influence as outspoken opinion leaders among their families, friends, neighbors and colleagues. This research report explains who these Poli-fluentials are, examines their habits, be- haviors and preferences, and describes how to commu- nicate with them as well as how they communicate with each other. The survey builds on IPDI’s ground-breaking 2004 survey, Political Influentials Online in the 2004 Presiden- tial Campaign, which showed that people who partici- pate in politics over the Internet are almost seven times more likely to belong to an elite cohort of local opinion leaders called “Influentials” than the general adult popu- lation. The purpose of this new study is to gain a deeper and more nuanced understanding of these trend setters, who are the most politically active and most influential, and to show candidates and advocacy groups where to find them, how to get their attention, and how to take advan- tage of their unique characteristics. We identified this partisan, vocal and active cohort by a two-pronged test. We first used a narrower defini- tion of “influential-ness” that measures a person’s will- ingness to publicly advocate a position on political and public policy issues (such as by e-mailing public officials, or writing letters to newspaper editors). We combined this definition with a second set of questions about whether the respondent had donated money to candi- dates, political parties or issue advocacy campaigns, or volunteered to help them. We then applied the two-part test to a database of almost 10,000 respondents to an on- line questionnaire in order to find the strongest advo- cates and most politically active respondents, whom we call Poli-fluentials. We contrasted the habits and behaviors of these Poli- fluentials with another group of respondents who passed the first part of the test that measures their influence, but not the second, political part. We refer to this group as the Influencers, or sometimes more descriptively as the non-political Influencers. Similarly, we also compared the Poli-fluentials to the respondents who passed the political test, but not the influential-ness test. We call this group the Politicals, or sometimes the non-influential Politicals. The Politicals and the Influencers are different in their habits, behavior and demographic characteristics from the group that is both politically active and influ- ential among their peers, the Poli-fluentials. Significantly, with respect to Poli-fluentials, we found that the sum is greater than the parts. They are not simply a hybrid of Politicals and Influencers. They are sophisticated, aggressive, opinionated, tech-savvy ac- tivists with big social and professional networks whose outsized presence will significantly influence the 2008 election process. These Poli-fluentials have traits that make them es- pecially appealing to the candidates, political parties and advocacy organizations that are lucky or shrewd enough to attract their support: Introduction BY CAROL DARR FORMERLY OF THE INSTITUTE FOR DEMOCRACY, POLITICS & THE INTERNET
  9. 9. PAGE 2 | POLI-FLUENTIALS: THE NEW POLITICAL KINGMAKERS INSTITUTE FOR POLITICS, DEMOCRACY & THE INTERNET • They are much more likely to volunteer in a political election. Forty-four percent vol- unteered in the 2006 election, a rate almost four times greater than the respondents who were political (but not influential) or influential (but not political). • They are significantly more technologically savvy than anyone else, and at the cutting edge, the differences are stark. For exam- ple, Poli-fluentials are more than six times more likely to have participated in a politi- cal event in an online game than someone who is a Political, and twice as likely to have created and posted an online video than a Political or an Influencer. • Theyaremorevoraciousconsumersofnews, especially alternative sources of news, and they seek out the websites of candidates, is- sue groups and public officials more often than do the Politicals or the Influencers. • They have larger social and professional networks than either the Politicals or the Influencers, but their networks are less likely to contain a wide variety of opinions. In contrast, fewer Politicals and Influenc- ers have large networks, but the ones who do are more likely to be moderates and the people in their circles are more likely to hold diverse viewpoints. Our research indicates that volunteers to political campaigns come almost exclusively from the ranks of Poli-fluentials. Our study finds that people who make contributions but who do not actively promote candi- dates and causes are much less likely to volunteer – only 12% of them did. Similarly, among the people who pub- licly promote candidates and causes but do not donate to candidates and causes, only 10% volunteer. Candidates and causes in search of foot soldiers to perform the ac- tual work of campaigns would do well to cultivate Poli- fluentials. And we also found that Poli-fluentials were more likely to be Democrats than Republicans (46% vs. 30%). Similarly, more Poli-fluentials were liberal or very lib- eral (45%) than were conservative or very conservative (33%). This research draws from a large pool of 9,722 in- dividuals who responded to an online questionnaire comprising approximately 50 questions between May and mid-July 2007. These individuals constitute a group whose names were originally obtained from a list of about 30 million registered voters, whose e-mailed ques- tionnaires made it past a daunting gauntlet of spam fil- ters and into their e-mail boxes, and who opened and completed the survey. While the number of surveys is small relative to the size of the list we started with, it constitutes an unusu- ally large database for purposes of analysis, made all the more valuable by additional census, commercial and voter information that was appended. The data, howev- er, have not been weighted to correspond to the various demographic groups’ relative size in the general public. For these reasons, this was not a random survey, but an elite study of a large group of online registered voters willing to participate in the study. How We Defined Poli-fluentials As all researchers know, how one defines the subject population shapes the answers to everything else. In this study, we chose to define Poli-fluentials by their opinion leadership as well as their involvement in electoral cam- paigns and public policy issues. To do so, we categorized a respondent as an “Influencer” based on answers to sev- en questions that addressed opinion leadership; and cat- egorized a respondent as a “Political” based on responses to three questions about volunteering or making politi- cal contributions. Poli-fluentials passed both tests. The first seven questions draw upon methodology developed by RoperASW that was used in the Political Influentials Online study four years ago. Some questions were revised1 to focus more intently on political behav- ior as well as other advocacy behaviors that inform po- litical decision-making. For this reason, we refined and narrowed the earlier influencer questions. Thus, instead of asking if the respondent has called into a radio or TV talk show to express an opinion on any topic, the respon- dents were asked whether they had called in to express a political opinion. Similarly, we asked if they had given a speech in the last year on a political topic. The Influencer Questions The seven questions used to determine “influential- ness” as an opinion leader follow below. A person we de- scribe as an “Influencer” answered “yes” to any THREE of these: 1. Made a speech on a political topic. 2. Wrote an article for a magazine or newspa- per on a political topic. 3. Was an active member of an advocacy group, that is, one that tries to influence public policy or government. 4. Wrote a letter or sent an e-mail message to any public official at the state, local or na- tional level. 5. Wrote a letter or sent an e-mail to the editor of a newspaper or magazine. 6. Attended a political rally, speech or pro- test. 7. Called a live radio or TV show to express an opinion on politics or public policy. 1 “The Influentials” by Ed Keller and Jon Berry (New York: The Free Press, 2003).
  10. 10. POLI-FLUENTIALS: THE NEW POLITICAL KINGMAKERS | PAGE 3 INSTITUTE FOR POLITICS, DEMOCRACY & THE INTERNET The Politics Questions A person that we describe as a Political answered “yes” to any TWO of these: 1. Leading up to the November 7, 2006, elec- tion, did you perform volunteer work for a political campaign? 2. Thinking back to the 2004 presidential elec- tion, did you donate money to any candi- date, political party, or a group promoting or opposing a cause or issue? 3. Leading up to the November 7, 2006, elec- tion, did you donate money to a candidate, political party, or a group promoting a po- litical cause? The Poli-fluentials responded “yes” to at least three of the seven influential items and “yes” to at least of the two of the three questions for being politically active. These people fall at the top of the scales for being both influential and politically active. In our sample: • 20% of respondents were Poli-fluentials, passing the two-pronged test. • 19% of respondents are Influencers, passing the first test for influential-ness but not the second, political test. • 13% of respondents are Politicals, passing the second political test, but not the first, influential-ness test. • 48% are of respondents were neither Influ- encers nor Politicals, passing neither test. FIG i.1: DISTRIBUTION OF SAMPLE What’s So Special about Poli-fluentials? Poli-fluentials, by definition, possess the characteris- tics of both Politicals and Influencers. Both Influencers and Politicals tend to be older, richer, whiter and more educated than the general population. Politicals tend to tilt toward the ideological poles rather than toward the moderate center. It is not surprising, then, that Poli-flu- entials, who straddle both groups, are demographically and ideologically similar to both. Poli-fluentials’ significance lies in the fact that they are influential and politically active. In fact, they are more politically active than others who donate and vol- unteer if you include the panoply of political activities both online and offline that are crucial to motivating the electorate, such as forwarding political videos to friends. In the same vein, Poli-fluentials can be considered more influential than ordinary Influencers who operate in the political arena. Across the board, they beat out the other two groups, even at their own games. And it goes without saying that Poli-fluentials are both more active politically and more influential than the 48% of the respondents – and the vast majority of the general public – who are neither influential nor political- ly active. Poli-fluentials left this group of Not-political/ Not-influencers in the dust. Nonetheless, the data show that Poli-fluentials more closely resemble Influencers than they do Politicals. When compared to Influencers, however, they score higher in almost every behavior. In activity after activ- ity – from forwarding e-mails pre-written by advocacy groups to public officials, to leaving comments on blogs, to using search engines to find political information – Poli-fluentials out-score the Influencers. In fact, the activism of Poli-fluentials vis-à-vis the other groups is so dramatic that it might suggest that campaign managers and leaders of issue advocacy groups spend their limited funds targeting and attracting Poli- fluentials, and ignoring the other categories, depending on the goal of the outreach. However, the analysis of the data conducted by social network analysts at FAS.research shows that the situation is more nuanced. Some Poli-fluentials are so partisan that they are useless and even counterproduc- tive in certain situations. These Poli-fluentials are best utilized by candidates, political parties and issue advo- cacy groups to shore up the base, not to win converts to the other side. FAS.research first focused on the fact that Poli- fluentials are disproportionately likely to have large networks of social and professional contacts. Of the re- spondents who have networks of 30 or more people with whom they discuss important political issues (10% of the sample) almost half (44%) were Poli-fluentials. FAS.research and other social network theoreticians call people with large networks “hubs” and divide them
  11. 11. PAGE 4 | POLI-FLUENTIALS: THE NEW POLITICAL KINGMAKERS INSTITUTE FOR POLITICS, DEMOCRACY & THE INTERNET into two categories. People who are “Bridging Hubs” surround themselves with heterogeneous groups of peo- ple who differ by age, income, and most particularly for purposes here, a wide variety of ideological perspectives. Not surprisingly, people who are Bridging Hubs make ideal ambassadors to help candidates, political parties and issue advocacy groups broaden their political base. The other kind of hubs, “Community Hubs,” com- prise people who are at the center of homogeneous net- works of people who share similar backgrounds and per- spectives. These Community Hubs who are politically active tend to be either very liberal or very conservative, as do the members of their networks. In other words, Community Hubs tend toward the ideological edges, not the moderate center. What FAS.research found is that people who are Community Hubs are likely to be Poli-fluentials. When these Community Hub/Poli-fluentials reach out to new people, they tend to seek highly partisan people of the same ideological persuasion as themselves. For this reason, candidates, campaign managers and issue advocacy groups must understand the differ- ences between the Poli-fluentials, the Politicals, and the Influencers. They should pay particular attention to the Influencers because they are especially likely to serve as Bridging Hubs who can deliver messages to people whom Poli-fluentials will probably never meet and in venues Poli-fluentials do not frequent. In other words, Poli-fluentials are well-connected, active, influential and highly partisan. But you can’t take all of them everywhere. With this in mind, let’s briefly examine the char- acteristics of Influencers and Politicals, before turning to a more detailed exploration of Poli-fluentials’ demo- graphic characteristics, contribution patterns, media habits, technology usage, and lifestyle patterns. Afterwards, we will examine the Poli-fluentials who have large social networks – hubs, in the language of so- cial network theorists – and how they and the Influenc- ers should be utilized by campaigns and issue groups. Influencers To qualify as Influencers under our narrower defini- tion, the respondents must be people who are outspoken about politics in a very public way. They call in to TV or radio talk shows to express a political opinion, or send letters to their congressional representatives, or make speeches about political issues. Or they send letters to newspaper editors or write newspaper or magazine ar- ticles about political issues. In other words, our Influ- encers are advocates. But we did not include them within the ranks of the Politicals because they failed to do at least two of three three activities: volunteer in the 2006 election; contrib- ute to a candidate, party or issue group in 2004; or con- tribute in 2006. Thus, Influencers are people who have strong opin- ions about politics and public policy issues that they share with others in public, and in addition may have given only one contribution, or volunteered only once. If they had engaged in two of these political activities, they would have been treated as Poli-fluentials. A small percentage of the Influencers are surely among the approximately 10% of the general adult pop- ulation who make political contributions. In fact, 13% of our Influencers made contributions in 2004, and 13% did so in 2006. But none of them contributed both times. In short, Influencers are opinion leaders, many of whom have been newly empowered by the ease of access to information ushered in by the internet. They may have contributed in 2004 or 2006 (but not both), or they may have volunteered in 2006 (without also contributing), but making political donations and volunteering are not regular parts of their civic lives, the study suggests. We found, however, that as a group these very vocal Influencers were less partisan than the Poli-fluentials – 35% of Influencers describe themselves as moderate – in comparison to the 22% of Poli-fluentials and the 21% of Politicals who describe themselves as moderates. Influencers were also almost as likely as Poli-flu- entials (15% vs. 16%) to have large networks of friends, families and colleagues (30 or more people). These are the kinds of people that FAS.research calls “hubs” in Chapter 5. However, the circles of friends, family and colleagues that Influencers surround themselves with are more diverse and heterogeneous than the networks of Poli-fluentials. As FAS.research suggests, these Influencers who are willing to make their voices heard in the public arena should be targeted with information that enables them to make “bridging arguments” to people in their net- works who hold a different political perspective than they themselves do. Politicals As noted above, to qualify under the second, “politi- cal” part of our two-pronged test, a respondent had to have done two of the following three activities: volun- teered in the 2006 election, made a political contribution in the 2006 election, or made contribution in the 2004 election. Most of the respondents we call the Politicals achieved that status because they made two political contributions. Only 12% of them volunteered, a per- centage only slightly higher than the Influencers, 10% of whom volunteered. This means that overwhelmingly the Politicals are those respondents who made contributions in both the last two elections. And for the most part, they are not people who volunteer; those people, this study finds, are far more likely to be among the ranks of the Poli- fluentials. But Politicals may also be people who are active in a good-neighbor, good citizen kind of way that we did
  12. 12. POLI-FLUENTIALS: THE NEW POLITICAL KINGMAKERS | PAGE 5 INSTITUTE FOR POLITICS, DEMOCRACY & THE INTERNET not count this time in our definition of influential-ness. Limiting our definition of Influencers to respondents who publicly advocate their opinions had the deliberate effect of excluding people who are civically but not po- litically active — people, for example, who said they at- tended a meeting on town or school affairs, or had been a member of a local club or served on one of its com- mittees, or had been an officer of any club at the local, state or national level. In other words, the people we are describing as Politicals may well be civically active, but they are not outspoken advocates, and so they did not fit within the category of Poli-fluentials. With these brief descriptions in mind, we turn to the characteristics of Poli-fluentials, as well as thoe of other respondents to the survey.
  14. 14. POLI-FLUENTIALS: THE NEW POLITICAL KINGMAKERS | PAGE 7 INSTITUTE FOR POLITICS, DEMOCRACY & THE INTERNET • Poli-fluentials are very highly educated, tend to have higher incomes and are clearly older than others. • Men and women are equally likely to be Poli-fluentials. • Education is the most important factor in determining who is an Influencer; age is the most important factor in determining who is a Political. • Poli-fluentials are moving online to make political contributions at a greater rate than other respondents. • People aged 51 and older are the most likely to report that they regularly discuss poli- tics. • Young people were more likely to report be- ing active in politics online. • Political activism changes over the course of a lifetime. While young people are more likely to volunteer, there remain types of ac- tivism – such as political donations – that are the purview of those over 50. Researchers have identified influentials in many dif- ferent ways, but the various definitions always describe them as an elite group with disproportionate influence within their social networks. Poli-fluentials are politi- cally active subset of that small group of influentials. We looked first at the demographic makeup of Poli- fluentials to see if any particular demographic group was more likely to be politically influential. Gender Researchers who study influentials have argued that they are pretty equally divided between men and women. In the 2004 presidential campaign, the Institute found that people highly engaged with politics online - dubbed “online political citizens” – were disproportion- ately male. Nearly 70% of these online political citizens qualified as influentials, according to the methodology developed by RoperASW, far more than the 10% to 12% of Influentials found in the general public.2 However, this group was an online subset of politically active people, and at the time there was a greater gender divide among Internet users. There is reason to believe that the gender difference has declined. The respondents to our online survey were dispro- portionately male (63%), probably reflecting a greater willingness of men to take the survey. However, men and women appeared equally likely to qualify as Poli- fluentials. There were no great differences across gender. 2 Joseph Graf, Grant Reeher, Michael J. Malbin and Costas Panagopoulos. “Small Donors and Online Giving: A Study of Donors to the 2004 Presidential Campaigns,” (Washington, D.C.: Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Inter- net, 2006). C H A P T E R 1 DEMOGRAPHICS BY JOE GRAF AMERICAN UNIVERSITY
  15. 15. PAGE 8 | POLI-FLUENTIALS: THE NEW POLITICAL KINGMAKERS INSTITUTE FOR POLITICS, DEMOCRACY & THE INTERNET Education Poli-fluentials are extraordinarily well educated. More than half (55%) reported they had completed at least some graduate school. More than a quarter of the Poli-fluentials we studied reported they had graduate de- grees (28%), another 13% reported they had professional degrees (such as a medical or law degree) and another 14% reported they had attended graduate school. Hardly any of the Poli-fluentials (less than 2%) reported having only a high school diploma or less. Even taking into ac- count the high level of education within our entire sam- ple, Poli-fluentials are clearly very well educated. This finding is consistent with previous research on people who are influential3 as well as people who are political donors. Age We know that middle-aged people are more likely to be influential. Many of the concerns that prompt higher levels of political and civic activity – the hallmarks of an influential person – take place in middle age. Owning property, having children in a local school district and enjoying larger salaries are all events typical of middle age that may induce greater civic involvement. We also know that middle-aged people are more likely to be po- litically active. Despite the media image of young volun- teers for a political campaign, the age of most volunteers is typically older and many volunteers are drawn from the ranks of the retired. Older people are more likely to vote - despite great efforts to encourage young voters - and older people are significantly more likely to donate money to a political campaign.3 Not unexpectedly then, Poli-fluentials are the oldest of the four groups in our data. They are also slightly more likely to report being retired, which in part reflects the demographics of the people who responded to the sur- vey, about 25% whom described themselves as retired. Age is more strongly related to political activity. In other words, while influentials are older than non-influ- entials, people who are politically active are significantly older than those who are not. 2 Joseph Graf and Carol Darr, “Political Influ- entials Online in the 2004 Presidential Cam- paign,” (Washington, D.C.: Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet, 2004). FIG 1.1: AGE BREAKDOWN OF POLI-FLUENTIALS Income Poli-fluentials are also the most affluent of all the respondents in our sample. About 20% of the Poli-fluen- tials reported income greater than $150,000 a year, com- pared to 14% of the remaining respondents. Another 39% of Poli-fluentials reported income between $75,000 and $150,000, compared to 33% of all others. Church Attendance The relationship between church attendance and Poli-fluentials is not strong, although it appears that Poli-fluentials are slightly more likely to report church attendance. Among Poli-fluentials, 32% reported that they attended church at least once a week, compared to 30% of the remaining respondents. At the other end of the scale, 45% of Poli-fluentials said they “seldom or never” attended church services, compared to 50% of the remaining respondents. What Matters Most Finally, to get a better sense of what matters among the demographic traits, we conducted some basic sta- tistical analyses to learn what demographic trait mat- ters most. For the influential scale we use, education is clearly the most dominant factor. In other words, when we compare the basic demographic characteristics of in- come, age, education and gender, education is the most important factor in predicting whether someone is an Influencer. However, for the scale of political activity we use, age is the most important factor, among the basic demo- graphic characteristics, in predicting whether someone is politically active.
  16. 16. POLI-FLUENTIALS: THE NEW POLITICAL KINGMAKERS | PAGE 9 INSTITUTE FOR POLITICS, DEMOCRACY & THE INTERNET Being an influential and being politically active are indeed two different things, and it is the unusual person who is both. Activism Over the Lifetime The Poli-fluentials dataset is so large that it enables us to make comparisons between age groups and exam- ine the differences in political activity between young and old. The next analysis looks at these differences in political activity. Our sample is highly politically active (and not representative of the general population), but using the entire dataset, our key comparison here is be- tween the various age cohorts. Political activity ebbs and flows throughout a per- son’s lifetime. Some people are politically active from the time they become politically aware, usually as teenag- ers, and others have no interest in politics at any time in their lives. But for most people, their interest in poli- tics changes as they go through the stages of their lives. Young adults may have more time to become involved in politics and may be surrounded by opportunities to get involved, such as on some college campuses. On the other hand, young people are often less rooted to their communities and lack the resources and the inclination to get involved. Young people do not do- nate much money to politics because they do not have as much disposable income. People in their 30s and 40s can often be strongly connected to a community as new property owners and parents of school-age children. And older people often have the resources, both in time and money, to become politically involved. FIG 1.2: ALL RESPONDENTS - REPORTED VOTING IN THE 2006 ELECTION In the 2004 election there were enormous well-publi- cized efforts to increase voting turnout for young people, such as Rock the Vote and New Voters Project.4 While turnout was higher than in past presidential elections, 4 www.rockthevote.com,www.newvotersproject. org the percent of people aged 18 to 24 who voted was still the lowest of any age group. About 42% of those aged 18 to 24 voted compared to 64% of all eligible voters. Survey respondents typically over-report that they have voted because it is a socially desirable activity and many people consider themselves voters, regardless of whether they voted in the last election. As we can see, the percent of people who claim to have voted is quite high. Nonetheless, there is a clear gradual increase in voting as people age. (The percent of 18- to 24-year-olds who vot- ed will be slightly depressed because some respondents were not old enough to vote in 2006.) Volunteering Volunteering for a political campaign is most com- mon among the young, ages 18 to 24, and those ages 51 to 70. Volunteering for a political campaign is not domi- nated by the young, despite images of young volunteers in the popular media, which often focus on young vol- unteers standing on the street corner or working behind the scenes. Young people were among the most likely to volunteer in the 2006 political campaign. Volunteering then drops off for those between ages 31 and 50, when people may be busier with family and careers. The high- est rates of volunteering are among those between the ages 51 and 75. FIG 1.3: ALL RESPONDENTS - REPORTED VOLUNTEERING IN THE 2006 ELECTION 0% 14% 28% 42% 56% 70% 18-24 25-30 31-35 36-40 41-45 46-50 51-55 56-60 61-65 66-70 71-75 76 or older Contributing The 2004 presidential election saw an enormous growth in the number of people who donated to political campaigns. Donating money to a campaign is dominat- ed by activists who are middle-aged and older. Our sur- vey question asked whether respondents donated to “any candidate, political party or a group promoting or op- posing a cause or issue.” The percent of people who claim to have donated money is extraordinarily large, probably due to the broad nature of the question and the selective nature of the survey sample. We can see, however, how the likelihood to donate money is much greater among older respondents.
  17. 17. PAGE 10 | POLI-FLUENTIALS: THE NEW POLITICAL KINGMAKERS INSTITUTE FOR POLITICS, DEMOCRACY & THE INTERNET FIG 1.4: ALL RESPONDENTS - REPORTED DONATING IN THE 2006 ELECTION 0% 14% 28% 42% 56% 70% 18-24 25-30 31-35 36-40 41-45 46-50 51-55 56-60 61-65 66-70 71-75 76 or older Donation Methods Returning now to comparisons between Poli-fluen- tials, Politicals and Influencers, the data indcates that there was a dramatic difference in the last two elections (the only two we asked about) in the rate of making polit- ical contributions between Poli-fluentials and Politicals on one hand, and Influencers and the Not-influential/ Not-politicals on the other. With respect to the 2006 election, respondents were asked if they had donated money to a candidate, politi- cal party or a group promoting a political cause. Ninety- four percent of Poli-fluentials said they contributed, as did 97% of Politicals. In contrast, only 13% of Influenc- ers and 9% of Not-influential/Not-politicals said that they contributed. This pattern was similar in 2004, in which 95% of Poli-fluentials and 98% of Politicals said they contribut- ed – a difference of one percentage point for each group. There was not change for other two groups: 13% of In- fluencers and 9% of the Not-influential/Not-politicals said they contributed.5 What was also interesting was change in the how the contributions were made, especially among Poli-fluen- tials. Forty-four percent said they made contributions in 2006 via the internet, up from 39% in 2004. With respect to direct mail, the difference was even greater. In 2006, 24% of Poli-fluentials made contributions by mail, down from 61% in the 2004 election. It is clear that the Poli- fluentials are moving online to make contributions. 5 We know, for example, that less than 2% of the population donated to a presidential candidate in 2004. Although the question here is more broad, it is clear that political donations are over-reported. See Joseph Graf, Grant Reeher, Michael J. Malbin and Costas Panagopoulos. “Small Donors and Online Giving: A Study of Donors to the 2004 Presidential Campaigns,” (Washington, D.C.: Institute for Politics, De- mocracy & the Internet, The George Washing- ton University, 2006). The patterns for the Politicals and the Influencers were more static. While the percentages changed some- what, the overall picture remained the same. The following chart shows the contribution pat- terns for 2004 and 2006. Keep in mind that respondents were told to check all methods that were applicable, so the figures can add up to more than 100%, and do so for the Poli-fluentials and the Politicals. Note also that the Politicals did not make fewer contributions than the Poli-fluentials in 2004. The chart reflects that the Poli- fluentials used more methods of donation. FIG 1.5: 2004 CONTRIBUTION METHODS Politicals PHONE 13% IN-PERSON 21% INTERNET 39% MAIL 61% PHONE 11% IN-PERSON 7% INTERNET 33% MAIL 68% PHONE 1% IN-PERSON 2% INTERNET 5% MAIL 8% PHONE .6% IN-PERSON 1% INTERNET 3% MAIL 6% FIG 1.6: 2006 CONTRIBUTION METHODS Politicals PHONE 12% IN-PERSON 28% INTERNET 44% MAIL 24% PHONE 11% IN-PERSON 8% INTERNET 36% MAIL 66% PHONE 1% IN-PERSON 6% INTERNET 6% MAIL 8% PHONE 1% IN-PERSON 2% INTERNET 4% MAIL 6% Promoting Candidates and Causes Finally, we made additional comparisons across the various age cohorts, using the entire dataset. We asked respondents how likely they were to engage in political discussion on a typical day. When we look at people who discuss politics with five or more people each week, we see a greater degree of political discussion once the re- spondent reaches the age of 41. The lowest rates of dis- cussion are among those aged 35 or younger.
  18. 18. POLI-FLUENTIALS: THE NEW POLITICAL KINGMAKERS | PAGE 11 INSTITUTE FOR POLITICS, DEMOCRACY & THE INTERNET FIG 1.7: ALL RESPONDENTS - PERCENT WHO DISCUSS POLITICS FREQUENTLY 18-24 25-30 31-35 36-40 41-45 46-50 51-55 56-60 61-65 66-70 71-75 76 or older 0% 14% 28% 42% 56% 70% Being Politically Active Online We also examined some of the online political ac- tivities that young people are more likely to participate in. It is clear that our sample is very engaged in online politics, but young people are more likely to report they have visited the website of a political party or seen a po- litical video within the past year. Again, keep in mind that the respondents who an- swered the online questionnaire appear to be an espe- cially active group of individuals, both offline and on- line. They are not representative of the general public. But the large numbers of them who participated allow us to make comparisons among the different age groups. The next chapter examines difference between Dem- ocrats and Republicans. There some distinct difference emerged. FIG 1.8: ALL RESPONDENTS - PERCENT WHO VISITED A PARTY WEBSITE 0 14% 28% 42% 56% 70% 18-24 25-30 31-35 36-40 41-45 46-50 51-55 56-60 61-65 66-70 71-75 76 or older FIG 1.9: ALL RESPONDENTS - PERCENT WHO WATCHED A POLITICAL VIDEO ONLINE
  20. 20. POLI-FLUENTIALS: THE NEW POLITICAL KINGMAKERS | PAGE 13 INSTITUTE FOR POLITICS, DEMOCRACY & THE INTERNET A New Kind of Influencer Much has changed in the world in the five years since RoperASW identified that 10% of the population influ- ences the other 90% on what to wear, what movies to see, what candidates to vote for, and what policies to sup- port. The biggest change has been the arrival of digital networking tools, including e-mail, instant messengers, blogs, and social network websites. These tools make it possible for influencers (or as RoperASW called them, “Influentials”) to transcend geographical barriers, help- ing local opinion leaders achieve the reach of national opinion leaders. As a result, influential people generally, and Poli-flu- entials specifically, can easily develop larger networks to expand the scope of their influence. These communities serve as an additional set of networks to augment tra- ditional political networks. While not replacing the old, these new networks can reinforce the old ones, expand the reach of them, and connect people more effectively. These new online networks are not just for communica- tions, they can be used to deliver products, money, vol- unteer action, and staff coordination, and do it all across geographic and time boundaries. In many ways, we have less of a need to raise money for the purpose of giving our message a megaphone. For a fraction of the cost of TV ads, we can hand a mega- phone directly to supporters, who a decade ago would have been solicited only for money (and turning most of them off in the process). We can spread messages, policy ideas, and the research they are based upon to people who already have the most sophisticated tools for word of mouth networking ever assembled. By tapping into the power of the Poli-fluentials, issue or political campaigns can spread their message across vast segments of the nation, mobilize thousands of vol- unteers (or more), and tip the balances to win. New Tools for Networking Digital networking tools have changed how people build extensive personal networks and, thus, have sig- nificantly lowered the cost of entry for people to build their own national constituencies. Since the rise of the Internet, we have had a steady stream of ever more pow- erful networking tools. Yet even e-mail and LISTSERVs, the earliest of digital networking tools, make it easy to engage, grow, and persuade a personal network. Wheth- er sending political communications by e-mail to exist- ing friends or connecting to a larger e-mail community (LISTSERV), even the oldest of these tools increase our ability to disseminate our opinions – fast, far, and eas- ily. And while e-mail remains a key tool for networking, newer tools further expand communication options for advocates and political activists. Instant messenger (IM) applications, such as AIM, Yahoo Messenger, MSN Mes- senger, ICQ, and PalTalk, make it possible for people to instantly communicate with one or many people. As an alternative channel to e-mail, instant messengers are able C H A P T E R 2 Party Poli-fluentials: Initial Thoughts on the Differences across Parties BY ALAN ROSENBLATT, PH.D. CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS
  21. 21. PAGE 14 | POLI-FLUENTIALS: THE NEW POLITICAL KINGMAKERS INSTITUTE FOR POLITICS, DEMOCRACY & THE INTERNET to bypass the distraction of inbox clutter that plagues e- mail users. The potential for generating rapid response campaign actions via IM is extraordinary. Blogs also help cut through the e-mail clutter. By sharing opinions via a blog, advocates and political ac- tivists are able to make their opinions available to anyone visiting their website. And with RSS and similar syndi- cation tools, blogs can deliver opinions by direct feed to readers, allowing them to bypass visiting blog websites directly. RSS readers, moreover, make it possible for peo- ple to follow many blogs simultaneously. In addition to bloggers, the readers of blogs, espe- cially the commenters, are also very likely to be Poli-flu- entials. In some cases, these reader/commenters can rise to become as well read as blog owners (as has become the case for several members of the DailyKos.com com- munity). Even the way we deliberately build networks for networking’s sake, as we do on social network websites, offers new opportunities to disseminate information, mobilizing people to action, and building bigger and wider communities. Social network websites expand the reach of advocates and political activists even further, providing tools to grow and cultivate a personal network within online communities that count as members tens of millions of people. Websites like MySpace, Facebook, Care2, LinkedIn, Plaxo, and Change.org make it easy to meet people, develop online relations with them, and create a personal community that influencers can influ- ence. Each of these community platforms has its own set of tools and demographic niche, but all of these com- munities are flush with Poli-fluentials who can spread a campaign message deep and far into any of them. Surprisingly, the survey data showed that social networking sites are one of the few tools used more fre- quently by Influencers than Poli-fluentials. In our study, 17% of Influencers, 14% of Poli-fluentials, and 6% of Po- liticals said they had visited a social networking site in the last year. Party Differences The use of digital tools to influence the political pro- cess has become a cottage industry. Advocacy groups, political parties, public officials, and candidates all use these tools, to varying degrees, to communicate with the public and mobilize support for policies and elec- toral bids. The low barrier to entry for using these tools, which is a democratizing force, allows anyone to develop their influence networks. But which citizens are availing themselves of these tools and opportunities? More spe- cifically, are citizens who identify with one party more likely to avail themselves than others? What is the partisan breakdown of Influencers and Poli-fluentials? Table 1 provides a quick glimpse of the answer. Among the 20% of respondents to the survey who qualified as Poli-fluentials – the ones who donate, volunteer and promote candidates and causes – 46% describe themselves as Democrats, 30% as Republicans, and 16% as Independents. This is very different, of course, from stating that 46% of Democrats or 30% of Republicans are Poli-fluentials. They are not. Only 20% of our very active sample are Po- li-fluentials, but of the ones who are, 46% are Democrats and 30% are Republicans. FIG 2.1: POLITICAL INFLUENCERS IDENTIFIER BY PARTY IDENTIFICATION PARTY IDENTIFICATION DEM REP IND/NO ID Poli-fluentials 46% 30% 16% Politicals 43% 39% 13% Influencers 33% 28% 28% Non-influential/ Non-political 33% 34% 26% As Figure 2.1 also indicates, the Politicals (43%) those who described themselves as Democrats slightly outnumbered those who described themselves as Repub- licans (39%), and substantially outnumbered those who described themselves as Independents (13%). Poli-fluentials Online As discussed in the opening of this chapter, the In- ternet gives all activists – and especially Poli-fluentials – new opportunities to meet people, people they may have never met offline. But is there a difference between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to using the Internet to expand their political networks? Figure 2.2 suggests that there are differences. Look- ing at the percent of respondents who indicated that they have expanded their social and political influence networks with people they meet online, we see some interesting results. When it comes to the Influencers, Republicans are more likely than Democrats to expand their networks by meeting people online (28% to 23%), but both groups fall short of Independents (32%) in this use of the Internet. But among the Poli-fluentials, Democrats lead the pack in making online connections: (41%) versus Re- publicans (31%) and Independents (22%). In short, Poli-fluentials who are Democrats appear to be signifi- cantly more likely to use the Internet to cultivate an on- line community that they can influence on political and policy issues.
  22. 22. POLI-FLUENTIALS: THE NEW POLITICAL KINGMAKERS | PAGE 15 INSTITUTE FOR POLITICS, DEMOCRACY & THE INTERNET FIG 2.2: WHO IS MORE LIKELY TO MAKE POLITICAL CONTACTS ONLINE? DEM REP IND Poli-fluentials 41% 31% 22% Politicals 12% 14% 10% Influencers 23% 28% 32% Non-influential/ Non-politicals 24% 27% 36% Influencing the Poli-fluentials Winning the support of Poli-fluentials can enhance the effectiveness of any advocacy or electoral campaigns. They are potential volunteers, organizers, and field staff. So how do we influence Poli-fluentials? Given the high levels of blog readership among Poli-fluentials, one strat- egy is to get the attention of bloggers. Getting a blogger to promote a policy position or candidate is one way to get their readers to spread the word to their own net- works. Looking at Figure 2.3, we can see how this plays out between Democrats and Republicans. Regardless of the subject, Democratic Poli-fluentials are far more likely to respond to calls to action from bloggers than are Republi- can Poli-fluentials. Moreover, Democratic Poli-fluentials are more than twice as likely to forward links from blogs to others, write candidates or officials at the request of bloggers, and sign petitions. And Democratic Poli-fluen- tials are three times more likely to take an offline action at the request of a blogger than are Republicans. Among Influencers, however, Republicans are more active than their Democratic counterparts. Conclusions Based on this initial review of the data regarding the behavior of Poli-fluentials, it is clear that Democratic Poli-fluentials are far more likely to embrace the online opportunities to expand their influence. They are more likely to use the Internet to meet new people and they are much more likely to respond to online attempts by blog- gers to mobilize them with respect to an issue or can- didate. Republican influencers, however, show a strong willingness to be mobilized. FIG 2.3: POLITICAL INFLUENCERS WHO RESPOND TO CALLS TO ACTION FROM BLOGS, CONTROLLING FOR PARTY IDENTIFICATION PARTY FORWARD LINK E-MAIL CANDIDATE OR OFFICIAL SIGN PETITION OFFLINE ACTION Democrat Poli-fluentials 22% 34% 27% 48% Politicals 4% 3% 2% 0% Influencers 31% 33% 34% 33% Republican Poli-fluentials 10% 12% 11% 16% Politicals 3% 5% 3% 0% Influencers 38% 42% 43% 45%
  24. 24. POLI-FLUENTIALS: THE NEW POLITICAL KINGMAKERS | PAGE 17 INSTITUTE FOR POLITICS, DEMOCRACY & THE INTERNET Over the past decade, the Internet has radically al- tered the media landscape in the U.S. The average adult now spends 11 hours a week online, nearly twice as much as in 2000, and the Internet now accounts for 17% of his/ her weekly media time.6 As broadband adoption contin- ues to rise, more and more people are using the Internet to shop, to communicate with friends and family, and to get their news. Today’s Poli-fluentials are a tech-savvy consumers, relying on a variety of media and devices to educate themselves on all things political. When consuming their news online, Poli-fluentials have a propensity to rely on user-generated content, specificallyblogs. They’re also more likely to take political action online, engaging in activities ranging from signing petitions to making political contributions. Four out of five Poli-fluentials connect via broadband at home, and 90% own a cell phone. Both devices enable them to keep up with politi- cal content and to pass along information to friends and family. They engage in more e-mail conversations each week than the average respondent in this survey, and are also more likely to send or receive text messages with political content. Poli-fluentials, always wanting news at their fingertips, are also twice as likely to download a political podcast as the average respondent. Digital technology has changed the lives of everyone, including Poli-fluentials, forever. To reach the new po- litical influencer, candidates must understand how their 6 Source: SRI Knowledge Networks, Fall 2000 vs. Fall 2006 media habits have changed and where they can most effectively reach them. The following chapter explores how they are spending their time consuming news, how the Internet has allowed them to take political action with the click of a mouse, and how blogs have become an invaluable political news source for Poli-fluentials. News Consumption When it comes to getting their news, Poli-fluentials engage with a number of media sources and generally spend more time with these media than the average re- spondent. For example, 40% of Poli-fluentials report spending 2+ hours reading news on the Internet each week, compared with 33% of total respondents. The In- ternet is their preferred method for getting their news, with radio and cable news right behind. This doesn’t dif- fer much from the overall consumption patterns of the respondents, but the proportion of Poli-fluentials who spend 2+ hours per week consuming news is higher for every media when compared to all the respondents.7 7 It should be noted that Poli-fluentials’ con- sumption of news is higher than the Politicals or the Influencers in every one of the catego- ries below, with the exception of national net- work news. There, Poli-fluentials’ and Politi- cals’ consumption of network or affiliate news is almost on par (one percentage point differ- ence) with Influencers or the non-political/ non-influencer respondent base. C H A P T E R 3 NEWS CONSUMPTION: OLD MEDIA, NEW MEDIA & POLI-FLUENTIALS BY JORDAN SCHLACTER YAHOO!
  25. 25. PAGE 18 | POLI-FLUENTIALS: THE NEW POLITICAL KINGMAKERS INSTITUTE FOR POLITICS, DEMOCRACY & THE INTERNET FIG 3.1: PERCENT THAT SPEND 2+ HOURS PER WEEK While Poli-fluentials focus most of their time on online resources and news radio, programs like the PBS NewsHour and Sunday morning talk shows also play a major role in how they keep informed. Compared to all respondents, Poli-fluentials are 86% more likely to watch the PBS NewsHour for 2+ hours each week than the av- erage respondent (13% vs. 7%), and 67% more likely to be watching Sunday morning talk shows, as indicated by indexes of 186 and 167, respectively. Because this type of programming is not as abundant as the other sources we asked about, such as online news, the actual proportion of Poli-fluentials who report spending 2+ hours with these media may seem low. But programs like these of- fer highly-targeted audiences, as it is far more likely that the viewers will be Poli-fluentials. FIG 3.2: POLI-FLUENTIALS THAT SPEND 2+ HOURS EACH WEEK WITH MEDIA INDEX VS. AVG RESPONDENT When we focus on the online behaviors of Poli-flu- entials, it becomes clear why they are spending so much time consuming news content online. The Internet offers myriad sources for general news and political informa- tion, and Poli-fluentials make use of all them. A deeper dive into their online activity reveals an audience that is visiting political websites, engaging with blogs, and tak- ing political action online. Political Activity Online Thewebsitesofpoliticalcandidates,advocacygroups, and parties are all heavily-trafficked by Poli-fluentials. In the last year, 81% of Poli-fluentials have visited a can- didate website, compared to 59% of total respondents, and three-quarters have visited the site of an advocacy group, versus 51% of all respondents. Always looking to share their opinions with others, Poli-fluentials are also 42% more likely to visit a public discussion group or chat room than the average respondent.
  27. 27. PAGE 20 | POLI-FLUENTIALS: THE NEW POLITICAL KINGMAKERS INSTITUTE FOR POLITICS, DEMOCRACY & THE INTERNET Poli-fluentials are engaging in a variety of online ac- tivities related to politics, beyond visiting political sites. Seventy-five percent have added their name to an online petition in the past year, 50% have completed a politi- cal questionnaire online (excluding this one), and more than a quarter have made an online purchase of political paraphernalia (bumper stickers, t-shirts, etc.). They’re also more receptive to political ads online, and were 17% more likely to have clicked on an online political adver- tisement in the past year than all respondents. As a re- sult of clicking on these ads, many Poli-fluentials took specific action such as signing petitions, leaving com- ments, and making contributions. Seventy-five percent took at least one specific action. Blogging Blogs are now mainstream, at least among heavy news consumers, and many survey respondents are turning to them for their political news. Sources esti- mate that there are more than 56 million blogs8 on the Internet today, and 175,000 new blogs created each day9 . It should come as no surprise then that over one-third of our respondents read blogs that discuss politics or cur- rent events, and 8% have their own personal blogs. Poli- fluentials turn to blogs even more, with over half of them reading political blogs, and 9% maintaining their own. They’re also more likely to scour multiple sources, with 35% reading at least 3 blogs each day (Monday-Friday). FIG 3.6: BLOG ACTIVITY 8 Source: BlogPulse, August 2007 9 Source: Technorati, as reported in Kentucky. com essay “Blogs Have Come of Age,” August 23, 2007 FIG 3.7: PERCENT THAT READS 3+ BLOGS PER DAY (MON-FRI) There are a number of reasons that more people are turning to blogs for their political news. Chief among these is the feeling that blogs give a different perspec- tive on the news. In addition, more than half of Poli- fluentials believe that blogs provide news the mass media ignores. Many respondents also like the transparency of blogs. By disclosing their biases up front, blogs gain the trust of readers that the mass media has been losing in recent years. Interestingly, blogs don’t necessarily have to be in line with the reader’s beliefs. Reading blogs to express their political beliefs or to support their political party is a much lower priority than reading blogs to learn about politics in general. Poli-fluentials are looking to educate themselves, and if a blog offer them interesting, unbiased information, they’re likely to visit it frequently. What’s fascinating about blogs is how many users are taking actions upon reading them. Overall, 35% of our total respondents and 50% of Poli-fluentials reported taking some action as the result of reading a blog. Twen- ty-three percent of Poli-fluentials e-mailed a candidate or public official and 10% made a political contribution at the suggestion of a blog. Poli-fluentials in general are more likely to donate, but clearly blogs can have a great influence on this behavior. Judging from Poli-fluentials’ responses, they value bloggers who are transparent, who take different angles when reporting, and who look for interesting stories that the mass media is ignoring. They click on online adver- tising about candidate and public policy issues, and a sizeable number take actions or use the information in conversations. They are avid consumers of all forms of news, including blogs, which are making their presence felt in the political landscape, and undoubtedly will have a major impact on the upcoming election.
  30. 30. POLI-FLUENTIALS: THE NEW POLITICAL KINGMAKERS | PAGE 23 INSTITUTE FOR POLITICS, DEMOCRACY & THE INTERNET • While Poli-fluentials are at the cutting edge of using technology for political communi- cation, a wide gap exists between Poli-fluen- tials and Politicals. Influencers are usually, but not always, somewhere in the middle. • Poli-fluentials and Influencers tend to be “multimedia content creators” – people who create, produce, and upload political pictures, web videos, and animations. • Poli-fluentials and Influencers send and re- ceive political text messages at three times the rate of Politicals. • Poli-fluentials’ and Influencers’ participa- tion in virtual political events in online, multi-player games, such as Second Life, is very small at this point: 5% and 4% respec- tively. Even so, their participation rate is more than quadruple the rate for Politicals. • Technology adopters tend to be in the mid- dle income bracket, male, well educated, and in their 50s. In early 2007, just as many presidential campaigns started the race to the White House, the media – and, for that matter, the American voters – were captivated not by the campaigns themselves but by the videos and online content they created. Videos like Vote Different, which examined Hillary Clinton’s authenticity as a can- didate, and Obama Girl, which showcased a model sing- ing about how much she loves Barack Obama, became the talk of the country. Americans began participating in politics in a new way, by creating online multimedia content. Vote Dif- ferent and Obama Girl represent only two of the tens of thousands of web videos, not to mention animations, photos and blog posts, that have been created and posted online. Poli-fluentials appear to be among the most active and prolific in using technology to share their opinions and voice their support (or disapproval) of candidates in new ways. Multimedia Content Creation Online content creation has become a new pastime – and a new form of political activism – for many Ameri- cans. This includes everything from posting content on a web site to blogging to using web cameras to uploading pictures. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project in 2003, more than 53 million American adults engage in some form of online content creation (albeit, not necessarily political content creation) on a regular basis.10 That number has grown considerably during the past four years, as technology adoption has spread and as tools and applications origi- nally used by either younger Americans or the tech-sav- vy have trickled into the general population. Fast forward to the summer of 2007, and the act of content creation has become animated, videotaped, mashed-up and virtualized. Thousands of Americans 10 Amanda Lenhart, Deborah Fallows, John Hor- rigan, “Content Creation Online: 44% of U.S. Internet users have contributed their thoughts and their files to the online world,” Pew In- ternet & American Life Project (http://www. pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_Content_Creation _Report.pdf), February 29, 2004. C H A P T E R 4 Technology Adoption and Poli-fluentials BY JULIE BARKO GERMANY INSTITUTE FOR POLITICS, DEMOCRACY & THE INTERNET
  31. 31. PAGE 24 | POLI-FLUENTIALS: THE NEW POLITICAL KINGMAKERS INSTITUTE FOR POLITICS, DEMOCRACY & THE INTERNET posted video questions on YouTube to the Democratic Presidential candidates during the CNN/YouTube Dem- ocratic Presidential Debate in July 2007. Creators of multimedia political content look a lot like you might expect from reading the other chapters in this publication. They tend to have incomes of $50,000 to $149,000 a year. People who post political web videos and animations tend to earn slightly more ($75,000 to $149,000 a year). Not surprisingly, the technologically sophisticated, male respondents to the questionnaire outnumber fe- males: three-quarters of political video creators (76%) and video or picture uploaders (76%), and almost as many cell phone picture- and video-takers (65%) are male. They tend to be political moderates with some college or a college degree. Where they differ from each other, however, is in their age. Around 10% of survey respondents in most age brackets said they used a cell phone camera to take a picture. Compare this to politi- cal video creators and uploaders, who tend to be in the 46-65 age bracket. Respondents who qualified as Poli-fluentials are usu- ally twice as likely as Politicals to use the new tools and applications that allow them to participate in multime- dia content creation. The Influencers are usually found somewhere in between. Nine percent of Poli-fluentials had uploaded a pic- ture or video to a website, three times the number of Po- liticals that have done so. Four percent of Poli-fluentials have created or posted an online video or animation, double the number of Politicals and Influencers. The starkest division between Poli-fluentials and Po- liticals occurs with respect to the creation of video blogs, or vlogs. While only .1% of Poli-fluentials – one tenth of one percent – have created their own video blog, or vlog, their rate is seven times greater than the almost imper- ceptible rate for Politicals (.014%). The rate for the Influ- encers at .08% was closer to that of the Poli-fluentials. Mobile Campaign Participation While the use of text messaging is not new, its use in American politics began in the last election. American campaigns began experimenting with text messaging and the mobile Internet during the mid-term elections in 2006. The Pat LaMarche campaign in Maine held a mobile primary that allowed voters to text their choice for Congress. Another campaign, the Dick DeVoss for Governor campaign in Michigan held a mobile video contest and developed a mobile version of its Web site. Three of the major presidential candidates – Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama – launched text message-based mobile campaigns in 2007. Mobile campaigns like these tend to attract mid- dle class voters. Most of our mobile adopters said they earned under $150,000. They are disproportionately male: around 65% of text message users and political text message subscribers and almost 75% of PDA users said they were male. They also tend to be slightly more ideo- logically moderate (around 30%), although PDA users are also just as likely to say they are liberal (29%). Most mobile adopters said they attended at least some college, and most of them are in peak career age brackets – their late 40s and 50s. It is no surprise that the respondents to our survey who were most likely to send and receive text messages for political communications were Poli-fluentials. The numbers, though, are still small: 6% said they received or forwarded text messages with political content.11 Still, these numbers are higher than those for Politicals (2%). The rate for Influencers slightly exceeded the rate for Poli-fluentials. Seven percent of Influencers used text messaging for political communications. The disparity is similar for the use of PDAs to access political news: 7% of Poli-fluentials, 5% of Politicals and 6% of Influencers have done so. However, with regard to using cell phones to take a picture of political activity, Poli-fluentials outstrip Polit- icals by more than seven to one. The numbers are small all around, however: 5% for Poli-fluentials, less than one percent for Politicals (.7%), and 3% for Influencers. Participation in Virtual Communities Tens of millions of Americans belong to social net- working sites, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Eons, and MySpace. Poli-fluentials and Influencers are using these sites at twice the rate of that for Politicals: 14% and 17%, respectively, vs. 6% for Politicals. What is anomalous here is that the rate of usage by Influencers exceeds that by Poli-fluentials. This is an unusual pattern in the data- set, in which the rate of participation by Poli-fluentials almost always exceeds that of the other two groups. What is also unusual is that the rate of usage by the 48% of the respondents who did not fall into any of the three categories because they are neither politically active or influential slightly exceeded the rate for the least active 11 We asked two questions on the survey about text messaging. One question was, “In the past year, have you used text messaging to send or receive a political message?” The number of respondents who answered affirmatively was similar to the number who responded affirma- tively for instant messaging. The other question was, “In the past year, have you received or forwarded text messages with political content?” Respondents apparently in- terpreted this as asking whether they had re- ceived a message in a text format rather than a video format, for the number who responded affirmatively was very high, too high in fact: 53% of Poli-fluentials, 43% of Politicals, and 32% of Influencers. We believe the answer to the first question more accurately reflects the use of text messaging for political purposes, and we have used the results of this question for our analysis of text messaging.
  32. 32. POLI-FLUENTIALS: THE NEW POLITICAL KINGMAKERS | PAGE 25 INSTITUTE FOR POLITICS, DEMOCRACY & THE INTERNET of the three groups we focus on, the Politicals (7% vs 6%). It is a rare occurrence for the Politicals to lag behind the Not-influential/Not-political respondents. With regard to participating in a political event in an online game, the participation rate for Poli-fluentials and Influencers (5% vs. 4%) was not quite as small as for vlogs, but again, their rate of their participation versus the Politicals was dramatic. Less than one percent (.8%) of Politicals said they had ever participated in a political event in an online game, a rate that puts the Politicals behind the other two groups by a factor of four. Despite the relatively small participation by these three groups, a few candidates and elected officials have begun to reach out to the online gamer audience. During the 2006 and 2008 campaigns, they ventured into the vir- tual world through online games such as Second Life – a multi-player game that allows users to create their own avatar or character, talk to other people, build islands, dance, attend events and live a second, virtual life. Second Life is only one example of a growing sec- tor of online multi-player games, but it is the first to at- tract political candidates. Former Virginia Governor Mark Warner held the first American townhall meeting in Second Life in 2006. Presidential candidate John Ed- wards went a step further, opening a virtual campaign headquarters in Second Life in 2007. Other institutions, such as the U.S. State Department and colleges and uni- versities, hold lectures and events in Second Life. Respondents in our survey who have participated in virtual events tend to from many different political ideologies. They tend to have some college education: al- most a quarter of event participants said they attended some college (22%), and more then a quarter said they have college (27%) and graduate (26%) degrees. They are also more likely to be in their late forties and fifties. A quarter of virtual event participants said they were 51- 55, 15% said they were 46-50 and 12% said they were 56- 60. The other age brackets mostly hovered in the single digits. Personal Technology Usage Despite their early adoption of the more sophisti- cated political uses of technologies, Poli-fluentials are no more likely to have a broadband connection or to use VoIP than Politicals or Influencers, and only slightly more likely to use TiVo to record television programs (21% vs. 19% for Politicals and 20% for Influencers). Twelve percent of Poli-fluentials and 11% of Influ- encers have made telephone calls on their computers, and 12% of both groups have looked at a web page on their cell phones or PDAs. In contrast, only 8% of Po- liticals have made computer-based phone calls, and 9% have looked up web pages via their PDA or cell phone. A substantial number Poli-fluentials, however, have latched onto online services that send automatic updates to their computers (30%), and 18% have downloaded a political podcast. These rates are more than twice that for Politicals – 17% for updates and 7% for podcasts.
  34. 34. POLI-FLUENTIALS: THE NEW POLITICAL KINGMAKERS | PAGE 27 INSTITUTE FOR POLITICS, DEMOCRACY & THE INTERNET C H A P T E R 5 Toward a New Paradigm: Understanding Political Influencers BY DORIS SPIELTHENNER, NEAL GORENFLO AND HARALD KATZMAIR FAS.RESEARCH • Poli-fluentials are far more likely to be Hubs (to have political networks of 30 or more people) than Politicals, Influencers or people who are neither political nor influ- ential. • Poli-fluentials are more likely to function as “Community Hubs,” at the center of a network of ideologically homogeneous members who tend to be at the ends of the ideological spectrum. • The other three groups, Politicals, Influenc- ers, and the Non-influential/Non-politicals, have a greater likelihood of functioning as “Bridging Hubs.” Their networks are more diverse. • Community Hubs and Bridging Hubs oc- cupy different places in the political spec- trum. Discovering which role each of the four groups plays in their networks will help political organizations better target and message likely voters. • Homogeneous Community Hubs (most of which can also be described as Poli-fluen- tials) should be used to mobilize the base. • Heterogeneous Bridging Hubs should be used to reach out to people of different ideo- logical persuasions. Introduction Politicians understand the importance of attracting the support of opinion leaders who are able to influence and mobilize large numbers of other people. For this reason, they have long courted church leaders with large congregations, union officials, precinct captains, heads of issue advocacy groups and anyone else able to act as a force multiplier by swaying the opinions of their peers. In different contexts, these people have been called elites, community leaders, influencers, and most recent- ly, Influentials. Social scientists such as ourselves who work in the field of social network analysis look for in- fluencers in the general public who are not your obvious community leaders, but who do, however, influence their peers’ decisions and behavior12 . Opinion leaders with big personal networks we call by a different name: Hubs. We describe as political Hubs people who discuss politics with big networks of friends, family, neighbors, colleagues, and coworkers. About 85% of such Hubs say that they are asked “often” or “very often” for their opinion on political issues. Hubs are very similar to the people that RoperASW and others call “Influentials.”13 Of the people who completed IPDI’s questionnaire, ap- 12 For a valuable discussion on not only the influ- encer, but more so -- those being influenced, see “Influentials, Networks and Public Opinion Formation” (Journal of Consumer Research, December 2007) by Peter Sheridan Dodds and Duncan J. Watts. 13 For a thorough treatment of the characteristics of people that RoperASW calls “Influentials,” see “The Influentials” by Ed Keller and Jon Berry (New York: The Free Press, 2003).
  35. 35. PAGE 28 | POLI-FLUENTIALS: THE NEW POLITICAL KINGMAKERS INSTITUTE FOR POLITICS, DEMOCRACY & THE INTERNET proximately 12% are Hubs. Previous research by us and other social network an- alysts has shown that there are two kinds of Hubs, Bridg- ing Hubs and Community Hubs. The IPDI survey data show that three-fourths of all political Hubs are “Bridg- ing Hubs.” These individuals exist at the center of het- erogeneous networks whose members possess many dif- ferent political beliefs. The other one-fourth of political Hubs are “Community Hubs,” existing at the center of an ideological homogeneous network of friends, neigh- bors and colleagues who have the same political beliefs. Bridging Hubs are people with large networks who bridge between different communities. Their personal and professional networks contain a heterogeneous mix of all kinds of people – young and old, liberal and con- servative, educated and less educated. For our purposes here, we were especially interested in people whose net- works contain a variety of political perspectives. As a general rule, people who are Bridging Hubs tend to be more politically moderate. Bridging Hubs are usually found near the ideological center and often func- tion as connectors between voters with different ideolo- gies. They are good messengers for converting voters of different ideologies. The other kind of Hubs are Community Hubs. While the networks of Community Hubs also contain young and old, educated and less educated, etc, their members share a similar outlook and political perspective. Prior FAS research has shown that most of these po- litically interested Community Hubs can be found on the far ends of the ideological continuum, being either very liberal or very conservative. They are good messengers for political communications that mobilize like-minded supporters. What we have discovered in this research – what is new here – is that the Community Hubs look very simi- lar to Poli-fluentials. In other words, almost all Commu- nity Hubs are very partisan and many of them are the people that this report describes as Poli-fluentials. The implication of this is that among people with big net- works, the people who are the most influential and the most political people – i.e., the Poli-fluentials – are the ones most likely to be ensconced in very polarized and ideologically extreme networks. This has important ramifications for candidates, campaign managers and issue advocacy groups, who need to appreciate the differences in order to take ad- vantage of the unique talents of each kind of Hub and to craft their messages and choose their media channels ac- cordingly. The targeting of influential people, the fram- ing of messages, the channels used, and the timing of messages are ripe for reinterpretation through the lens of a more nuanced view of political influencers and their networks. Our research leads us to offer this advice: Communi- ty Hubs who have consensus or near-consensus in their political networks should be targeted for stabilizing the base. Bridging Hubs, on the other hand, are more likely to be influencers who can win new supporters. These individuals are the key to winning new, ideologically dissimilar supporters to a campaign, for their networks contain a high percentage of members who vote for a dif- ferent party than the Hub. As we will discuss in more detail below, the data sug- gests that likelihood of peer conversion increases when heterogeneous Hubs who bridge between different par- tisan communities are empowered with bridging stories that take into account the personal values of the poten- tial converts. Background For purposes of this report, we are especially inter- ested in respondents who reported that over the last year they had ongoing discussions about political issues they considered important with more than thirty people. As noted above, 12% of all respondents fell into this cat- egory. Social network analysts pay particular attention to the characteristics of the people within the orbit of these so-called Hubs, and the nature and structure of their micro-social environments. We also focus on the degree to which political opinions within such micro environ- ments are similar or different. Stated in the language of social science, we distinguish between ideologically ho- mogeneous and ideologically heterogeneous Hubs. These two types of Hubs, which will be discussed in greater detail below, operate in two different ways and serve two different functions. For this study, we looked not only at the level of partisan homogeneity within such social networks, but also at the level of agreement on hot political topics. We found that the level of disagreement on political issues indicates an intersection between ideologically dissimi- lar groups and suggests that conversion opportunities exist using bridging messages. Such messages are high consensus door openers that can lead moderates to ei- ther side of the political spectrum. To examine the implications of Hubs to political campaign management, FAS.research partnered with IPDI. Our research approach is informed by the science of social network analysis - a long established social sci- ence that provides unique insights into how people are connected and influence each other – as well as by our experience applying this science to political campaign management in several central European elections over the last five years. To explore the partisan differences between differ- ent kinds of Hubs, IPDI included questions designed by FAS that we strongly suspected from our prior research and field experience could add to the body of knowl- edge about political influencers, or Poli-fluentials. Our analysis is based on the responses to questions designed to gain insight into the composition of individuals’ per- sonal networks, especially the degree to which they are surrounded by people who agree or disagree with them
  36. 36. POLI-FLUENTIALS: THE NEW POLITICAL KINGMAKERS | PAGE 29 INSTITUTE FOR POLITICS, DEMOCRACY & THE INTERNET ideologically and on key political issues. While we discuss a number of findings in this ar- ticle, the key thesis we tested is the idea that there are two types of influencers, or Hubs, that campaign managers need focus on – ones that can help convert voters with differing ideological orientation and ones that can help mobilize those with the same ideological orientation. This idea has a fairly rich heritage. Past diffusion research, not to mention common sense, suggests that people surrounded by other people just like themselves – who have little or no access to people of a differing ideological orientation – have minimal opportunity to convert them to a different perspective. They only have the chance to mobilize ideologically similar peers with conversations that reinforce existing beliefs. Conversely, those who have access to others with differing ideologi- cal orientation have an opportunity to convert. To explore this idea further in the political context, we studied the network morphology of individuals who responded to IPDI’s questionnaire who have a political network size of more than 30 people. As noted earlier, the data confirmed that 85% of these Hubs are asked for their opinions about political issues either often or very often. This is important in establishing that these Hubs not only discuss politics with a large number of people but also influence others’ opinions. We were surprised to find from the data that one fourth of all Hubs are homogeneous. Given the size of their networks (30 people or more), we expected more heterogeneity. Significantly, the data also shows that Poli-fluentials are more likely to operate as Community Hubs. Among the 44% of Poli-fluentials who qualify as Hubs, 32% are homogeneous compared to an average of 25% among all respondents. The opposite is true for influencers with large het- erogeneous networks: 30% of these Bridging Hubs com- prise moderates, the largest of five cohorts defined by ideological orientation (Very Conservative, Conserva- tive, Moderate, Liberal, and Very Liberal). The results supported our thesis that two types of hubs – Community Hubs and Bridging Hubs – have great applicability to politics. We also found that the strategic value of an influencer varies from issue to issue and depends on the network morphology that an influ- ential is embedded in. Targeting (WHOM) Given the novelty of applying this concept to politics and an equally novel way of categorizing political activ- ists and influencers, the following section is intended as a step-by-step guide to our analysis of the basic model of Community Hubs and Bridging Hubs and the corre- sponding findings of the IPDI survey. FIG 5.1: POLITICAL NETWORK SIZE Size of Political Discussion Network To determine the size of a respondent’s political dis- cussion networks, we asked the following question. “If you look back over the last year, with how many people in your circle of friends, family and co-workers have you had ongoing discussion about political issues you con- sider important.” Most (58%) respondents reported that they had a political discussion network of 3-10 people. In contrast, 12% indicated that they had a network size of more than 30. We regard people with a network of more than 30 political discussants as Hubs. Hubs have more outreach potential than people with smaller networks given the number of politically interested people they have access to and the larger potential pool of opinions. The Relationship between Demographics and Network Size Respondents were asked for the typical demographic information including gender, age, education, household income, religion and ethnic background. Education was the key variable determining political network size. This is also consistent with prior research by FAS.research14 and others, such as the 2004 Great Social Survey,15 that showed different social morphologies and different network patterns between working class, middle class and upper class individuals. People with less education generally have small but multiple-linked and dense net- works, meaning that everybody is linked with every- body else. The reason is that working class people tend to entertain multiple relations with the same peers. They 14 Katzmair, Harald, et al., “The Social and Politi- cal Morphology of Austria” (paper presented at the 23rd annual International Sunbelt Confer- ence, Cancun, Mexico, 2003) 15 McPherson, Miller, Lynn Smith-Lovin and Mat- thew E. Brashears, “Social Isolation in Ameri- ca: Changes in Core Discussion Networks Over Two Decades,” American Sociological Review, Vol. 71 (2006): 353-375.
  37. 37. PAGE 30 | POLI-FLUENTIALS: THE NEW POLITICAL KINGMAKERS INSTITUTE FOR POLITICS, DEMOCRACY & THE INTERNET work together, spend their leisure time together and dis- cuss important matters, including political matters, with each other. Middle class networks tend to have a network size of 6-30 and are less densely linked. The underlying data from the Poli-fluentials study supports this view. For example, every sixth person with some graduate school or more has a political network size of more than thirty and can be described as Hubs. In contrast, only one out of every 14 people with high school diploma has a political network size more than 30. Those with some graduate school, a graduate degree, or a professional de- gree had the highest network size. FIG 5.2: NETWORK SIZE AND POLITICAL OPINION NETWORK SIZE VERY OFTEN OFTEN SELDOM NEVER One to Two 1.5 12.3 70.4 15.7 Three to Five 2.7 27.8 65.9 3.7 Six to Ten 6.3 47.6 44.0 2.0 11 to 30 14.7 58.4 26.5 0.3 More than 30 37.9 47.3 14.2 0.6 None 55.8 44.2 Political Network Size and How Often Hubs are Asked for Advice To understand if someone with a large political dis- cussion network of family, friends and co-workers is also influential on his or her peers’ opinion formation we tested the relationship between Hubs’ political network size and the frequency with which people asked them for their opinion on a political issue. We asked, “How often are you asked for your opinion with regard to political issues?” Among the Hubs, 85% claim to have been asked “of- ten” or “very often” for their opinion on political issues. In contrast, those with the average network size (6-10) were asked for opinions “often” or “very often” only 54% of the time. This shows that Hubs are significantly much more likely to have an influence on their peers’ opinion formation than respondents with smaller networks. It is well established in the field of Social Network Analysis that an individual’s influence is direct and de- rives from their informal status as someone who is well informed, trusted, or simply well connected. We assume that the people asking for advice are part of the Hub’s political discussion network and that Hubs have an in- fluence on these people’s opinion formation process. Political Network Size and Distribution of Poli- fluentials To ensure that what we describe about influential Hubs also is true for Poli-fluentials as defined by IPDI, we studied how Poli-fluentials are distributed over small, medium and large networks. And, indeed, we found that 44% of all Poli-fluentials have large networks with a size of 30 and more. About 29% of Poli-fluentials have a po- litical network size of 11-30. In contrast, the Non-Influential/Non-political re- spondents in the study account for 77% of all 1-2 person networks. Thus, most respondents who act as Hubs are Poli-fluentials. Another 28% of respondents who act as Hubs are Influencers. Segmentation of Targets: The Degree of Partisan Diversity in Networks Campaign managers who wish to segment their targets and deliver the right messages to them must understand the degree of partisan diversity of anyone’s network, but in particular – because of their outsized in- fluence – the degree of partisan diversity in the network of a Hub/Poli-fluential. The first question to ask is about party affiliation: Is the Hub a Democrat or a Republican or a member of FIG 5.3 IPDI DEFINITION 1-2 3-5 6-10 11-30 MORE THAN 30 NONE Poli-fluentials 4% 10% 18% 29% 44% - Politicals 9% 14% 15% 14% 8% 7% Influencers 10% 15% 21% 22% 28% 5% Not Influential/ Not Political 77% 61% 46% 35% 19% 88% Total 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
  38. 38. POLI-FLUENTIALS: THE NEW POLITICAL KINGMAKERS | PAGE 31 INSTITUTE FOR POLITICS, DEMOCRACY & THE INTERNET another political party? The second question – since we want the Hub to become our advocate – is whether the Hub talks to like-minded people (i.e. Is the Hub a Demo- crat influencing a group of Democrats?) or is the Hub bridging into different partisan communities (a Demo- crat influencing Independents, Liberals, Green Party members or Republicans). Common sense tells us an in- fluential Democrat among Democrats will mobilize and stabilize the base, whereas empowering an influential Democrat within a circle of differing partisan leanings can help to expand the base. In a first step we determined the degree of diversity with regard to party affiliation in any respondent’s net- work, irrespective of whether somebody indicated that he or she discusses politics with two or more than thirty people. We can generally distinguish between homoge- neous and heterogeneous networks. To make this determination, we asked, “How many of these people vote for the same political party as you.” Of all respondents, 29% indicated that all or almost all of their peers voted for the same political party. Respon- dents who indicated that “all” or “almost all” of their networks were made up of discussants with the same party preference we classified as homogeneous networks. Fifty-four percent of all respondents said that more than half, about half, less than half or none voted for a differ- ent party. These were classified as having heterogeneous networks. The remaining 17% indicated that they didn’t know their peers’ party preference. Having determined the degree of diversity with re- gard to party affiliation in a respondent’s network, we then analyzed how Poli-fluentials differ from the gen- eral respondent with regard to their partisan network composition. We found that regardless of whether re- spondents indicated that they have a political discus- sion network of two or thirty people, Poli-fluentials have a significantly higher degree of homogenous networks (37.1%) as compared to the average respondent complet- ing the survey (29%). In a second step, which will be shown in more detail below, is to determine the degree of partisan diversity for our main targets, the Hubs. And there again, we looked at whether Poli-fluential Hubs had more homogeneous or heterogeneous networks. Targeting Hubs In analyzing the data, we found that there are three times more heterogeneous Bridging Hubs than there are homogeneous Community Hubs. Specifically, homoge- neous Community Hubs (in which all or almost all of their peers voted for the same political party) account for 25% of all Hubs, and Heterogeneous Bridging Hubs (in which at least half of their peers voted for a different party) account for 75%. Since the vast majority of all Hubs are bridging be- tween different partisan communities and can be used to open doors for expanding the voter base let us describe what a Bridging Hub might look like in real life. While we do not know the ideological leaning or partisan pref- erence of each of the peers in a Bridging Hub’s network, we do know that many of them vote for a different party than the Hubs themselves. A Bridging Hub could be a Libertarian with a political network of other Libertar- ians but also Democrats and Republicans. A Bridging Hub could also be a Republican with a network of fellow Republicans, Green Party voters and Independents. FIG 5.4: HOMOGENEOUS OR HETEROGENEOUS NETWORKS 0 5 10 15 20 25 Don't knowNoneLess than halfAbout halfMore than halfAlmost AllAll n = 4156 homogenous heterogenoushomogeneous heterogeneous How many people voted for the same political party as you?
  39. 39. PAGE 32 | POLI-FLUENTIALS: THE NEW POLITICAL KINGMAKERS INSTITUTE FOR POLITICS, DEMOCRACY & THE INTERNET Distribution of Poli-fluentials over Community and Bridging Hubs A key interest for us was whether Poli-fluentials, who make up 44% of all Hubs, are functioning as a stabilizer for the existing voter base or as bridges into different partisan communities. We found that Poli- fluential Hubs are more homogeneous than the average Hub. Keeping in mind that 25% of all Hubs are Com- munity Hubs, Poli-fluential Hubs are significantly more homogeneous (32%). We assume that in real life Poli- fluentials are individuals with a strong political identity, meaning they lend their voices and dedicate their time and money to a very specific political cause. Poli-fluen- tial Hubs are not just politically interested or knowl- edgeable people with a large political network size, they are also very active, and thus important to stabilizing and motivating the existing base of supporters. FIG 5.5: POLI-FLUENTIALS AND HUB TYPE Segmentation of Targets: The Distribution of Hubs Over the Ideological and Partisan Spectrums One key question that should be of major interest to political candidates and their campaign managers still remains to be addressed: What is the partisan preference of the Hubs being targeted, who are identified as either Community Hubs or Bridging Hubs? What side are they on? We find that an astounding number of Com- munity Hubs not only have a clear partisan preference for either Democrats (46%) or Republicans (36%) we also find that Community Hubs are significantly more likely to be found on the extreme poles (45%) of the political spectrum. Knowing that Poli-fluentials represent classic Com- munity Hubs and knowing also of their political engage- ment and interest this is not surprising. It also supports our previous studies and other scientific research, which suggests strong homophily effects, meaning that birds of a feather flock together, among people with a strong and clear political orientation. Such individuals, however large their network, pre- fer to remain among themselves and within their shared frame of reference. Such networks have an echo chamber effect where political opinions tend to be reinforced. The prevalence of Community Hubs in clearly declared par- tisan groups or extreme ideological groups is well illus- trated by the example of the Green Party. Hubs among Green Party supporters are almost three times more likely to have a homogeneous network. In this way, they are similar to those who are very conservative or very liberal. Quite the opposite is true for Bridging Hubs, who are distributed more evenly among Democrats (37%), Re- publicans (32%), and Independents (24%). In addition, they cluster around the ideological center. This indicates that moderate Hubs are three times more likely to have a diverse network and broker to the political left or right than stay among themselves (11% vs. 31%). It also indi- cates that moderate Hubs are the ideal targets to empow- er for voter conversion. FIG 5.6: HUBS AND POLITICAL AFFILIATION COMMUNITY HUBS (HOMOGENEOUS HUBS) BRIDGING HUBS (HETEROGENEOUS HUBS) Democrat 46.4 37.2 Republican 36.4 31.9 Independent 9.1 24.1 Libertarian 1.8 3.4 Green Party 5.5 1.9 Other third party 0.9 1.5 FIG 5.7: HUBS AND IDEOLOGY COMMUNITY HUBS (HOMOGENEOUS HUBS) BRIDGING HUBS (HETEROGENEOUS HUBS) Very Conservative 15.3 6.9 Conservative 22.5 29.0 Moderate 10.8 31.2 Liberal 21.6 21.2 Very Liberal 29.7 11.8