Voters Turn To Search Engines To Find Election Information
The following is a memo from the Mellman Group, a public opinion research firm, to the Voting Information Project. This analysis represents the findings of a survey of 859 registered voters nationwide. Interviews were conducted October 6-9, 2011 by telephone. The margin of error for this survey is +/-3.3% at the 95% level of confidence. The margin of error is higher for subgroups.
A new survey demonstrates that voters often look up logistical information on elections before voting, and that to accomplish that task they turn to search engines. The Voting Information Project, through partnering with Google, Microsoft, election officials and media outlets, is at the forefront of delivering relevant, official election information to the places that voters look for it.
A nationwide survey of registered voters finds that looking online is the most popular option to figure out where to vote. When asked what they would do if they heard their polling place had moved, a plurality of voters (28%) said they would look online, with smaller proportions reporting they would call their election officials (17%), ask a friend or neighbor (16%), or read a local newspaper (14%). About a quarter (22%) would either wait for a new voter card or not worry about the change. Thus, over a third (37%) of voters who would proactively deal with determining their new polling location would go online.
Younger voters are especially likely to search online. A large plurality (43%) of those under 45 would start their search on the Internet. And this group constitutes a majority (56%) of proactive younger voters. Since younger Americans are more likely to move residences, it is crucial to help this group determine where their new polling locations are.
When voters do go online—regardless of whether the Internet is their first instinct—search engines are the most popular destination. A plurality (46%) of online voters (who constitute 84% of registered voters) would head directly to sites such as Google or Bing. Smaller, though sizable, proportions would visit a local election official’s website (30%) or a local newspaper’s website (17%). All three of these types of websites have important constituencies, and the Voting Information Project partners with search engines, local election officials, and newspapers to bring voting information to the places where voters are looking for it.
The youngest cohort is more likely than others to rely on search engines for their election information. A large majority (62%) of all registered voters under 35 would turn to Google, Bing, or the like to determine their new polling location.
Significant portions of the electorate report searching for pieces of election information before voting. A majority (57%) say that looked up what was on their ballot before voting most recently. Sizeable proportions sought out where to vote (45%) and voting hours (44%). About a third (30%) verified that they were officially registered; and 29% looked up rules regarding Photo ID. The Voting Information Project plans to provide all of these pieces of information in the 2012 general election. (Because VIP does not handle personally identifiable information, voters will be given a link to an official site to verify their registrations).
Knowing where to vote, when to vote, and what to vote on are crucial parts of the voting process. Voters realize that they might not know everything they need to, and when they look up election information, they often turn to search engines.