The internet revolution (for the rich and well-connected):
In 2004, Joe Trippi, Howard Dean’s techie campaign manager, declared that “the Internet is the most democratizing innovation we’ve ever seen—more so even than the printing press.” Five years later, after Barack Obama’s largely Web-based presidential campaign and Iran’s largely Twitter-fueled election protests, there is no doubt that the Internet has revolutionized how people interact with politics. News is more immediate, communication is more widespread, and, it seems, more people can engage in the political world than ever before. But according to a new report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, the Internet is not the vehicle of democratization that Trippi and others had proclaimed. Rather than empowering the voiceless masses, the report finds, the Web has shifted more political power into the hands of the educated, well-to-do citizens already engaged in the political process.
In a survey conducted in late August 2008, Pew found that only 8 percent of people with a household income of less than $20,000 had participated in two or more online political activities—emailing their representatives, donating money through a political campaign or group’s Website, or signing an online petition—in the past year, as opposed to 35 percent of those with an income of $100,000 or more. A similar 33-percentage-point gap emerged between college graduates and those without a high school degree. In other words, much to the disappointment of the report’s authors, higher-income, more educated people were just as likely to dominate civic engagement online as they were offline.