As midterm elections loom, Americans turn to tech

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Voters increasingly use smartphones, social nets to follow politicians and issues

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With the midterm elections on Tuesday, Americans are increasingly using social networks and their cell phones to learn about the candidates and the issues.

According to a national survey by the Pew Research Center, the number of Americans who follow candidates or any political figures on social media jumped from 6% during the 2010 midterm elections to 16% this year.

The study surveyed 2,003 adults, of whom 1,494 are registered voters, between Oct. 15 and Oct. 20. The survey found that 28% of the registered voters used their smartphones to educate themselves and keep up with political events ahead of the elections. That number is up from 13% in 2010, a more than two-fold increase.

"As political behavior on social media has grown more prevalent, the reasons voters give for following political figures in these spaces have also shifted somewhat compared with the previous midterm election," the report noted. "Forty-one percent say that finding out about political news before other people do is a 'major reason' why they follow political figures on social media."

In 2010, 22% said getting news first was a major reason they used social networks, such as Twitter and Facebook, to follow campaigns and politicians.

The survey also noted that 35% said they use social networks to feel more personally connected to political candidates or groups, while 26% said they think they get more reliable information on social media than they do from traditional news organizations.

It's also not the youngest demographic that's increasingly using technology to follow politics.

The survey showed that voters of all ages are more likely to use social media and their smartphones, but growth has been especially pronounced among 30 to 49-year-olds.

In that age group, 40% of voters said they have used their phones to follow this year's election campaigns, which is up from 15% in the last midterms.

For the same age group, 21% follow politicians on social networks, compared to 6% in 2010.

Despite the fact that younger users generally are the biggest users, voters between 30 and 49 use technology at rates nearly identical to 18 to 29 year olds, according to Pew.

The study also noted that technology users don't have a clear partisan slant. Republicans and Democrats engaged in each of these behaviors at similar rates.

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