Smartphones and political campaigns

Pew Research Center published today a report on smartphone use in the US that contains some fascinating bits. From the huge jump in the penetration of smartphones in the population (64%) relative to just three years ago (35% in 2011) to the somewhat surprising fact that “10% of Americans own a smartphone but do not have any other form of high-speed internet access at home beyond their phone’s data plan.” The report also goes into details about usage and attitudes for different sociodemographic groups.

The publication was quickly followed by a piece on how mobile devices will be the central element of the 2016 campaign. Unfortunately, it matches the flamboyant language that you expect when it comes to technology and political campaigns:

[Chris] Lehane [Democratic strategist] mapped out one scenario, in the fall of 2016, where “a voter identified by a campaign based on its data analytics will be nano-targeted via addressable mobile with ads, with social messages from their friends who have been engaged by the campaigns to reach out to their social network.”

Buried underneath all the buzzwords, the article echoes the relevance of mobile devices for tracking breaking news and obtaining political information, sometimes through social media. Those were in fact the conclusions of the “Cell Phones, Social Media and Campaign 2014” report that Pew published just a couple of months ago:

Some 40% of voters ages 30-49 have used their cell phone to follow this year’s election campaign (up from 15% in 2010) and 21% follow political figures on social media (up from just 6% in 2010).


Digital politics also goes hand in hand with other types of campaign engagement. In particular, the 16% of registered voters who follow political figures on social media participate in various traditional campaign activities at high rate

Not at all unexpected but still quite impressive.