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Voter Visits to The Web Double

The number of Americans using the Internet as their main source of political news doubled since the last mid-term election and rivaled the number from the 2004 presidential election year, according to a report released today by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Fifteen percent of all American adults say the Internet was the primary source for campaign news during the election, up from 7 percent in the midterm election of 2002 and close to the 18 percent of Americans who said they relied on the Internet during the presidential campaign cycle in 2004.

Much was made of a Political Web 2.0 in 2006 as, among other attempts to engage Internet-using voters, candidates bought sponsored links on Google AdWords, made friends on Facebook and uploaded videos to YouTube.

Pundits hailed the trend as a sign that American politics were becoming a conversation unlike ever before.

But a great majority of Americans, 71 percent, said they turned to the Internet for its convenience. Online behavior also suggests that breaking the top-down political paradigm wasn't a top priority for American Internet users.

Sixty percent got their news from portals such as Google News, and 60 percent got their news from TV network Web sites such as CNN.com or ABCNews.com.

There's evidence in the Pew report to support some optimism for a new political discourse.

According to Pew, about 60 million people, or 31 percent of all Americans, used the Internet to gather information and exchange views. A smaller, but still significant subset of 14 million Americans used the "read-write Web" to contribute to political discussions and activity through blogs, posting and re-posting audio and video, or creating Web sites.