A new poll finds that the political views of the cybercitizens, despite their media-fed reputation for fierce independence, are not that far off from those of the real world.
The poll broke another popular myth, that the Net is dominated by a disproportionate number of left-leaning Democrats. Although President Clinton still holds a wide lead in among the so-called Internet community, the margin is significantly narrower than numbers indicate in the physical world.
According to the survey by research firm Cyber Dialogue, 52 percent of those polled favor Clinton and 39 percent support Republican challenger Bob Dole, a 13-point margin. A new Field Poll from California this week showed Clinton leading Dole by a far wider gap of 22 points, 55 percent to 33 percent.
Cyber Dialogue reported that men favored Clinton over Dole by 5 points in the survey, and women favored Clinton by 19. The Field Poll showed Clinton leading Dole by 15 points among men and 27 points among women.
The survey by Cyber Dialogue, which touts itself as the world's first and most experienced online market research firm, was based on 300 people from across the country polled in a three-day period last week. While it is hardly comprehensive, the survey provides the first snapshot of the online voting bloc in the final stretch of the campaign, which has yet to be examined in a meaningful way.
"Our panel is about as good as you can get for a sample online," said Kevin Mabley, director of research for Cyber Dialogue, pointing out the extreme difficulty in getting a truly representative sample of the online population. "I don't think anybody can do that. The goal posts move too fast."
Mabley added that when it comes to politics, Web surfers are still getting their information from the same places as anyone else.
The Cyber Dialogue survey also indicated that only 3 percent of Netizens rely on the Internet for information about the candidates and the election versus 39 percent who rely on television and 32 percent who rely on newspapers. In other words, cybercitizens don't have any more information than real-world voters.
But that doesn't mean they're all political establishment junkies. Seventy-nine percent thought national party conventions were a waste of time, saying they did not serve a legitimate purpose in selecting a party candidate. The survey also reported on key election issues and the election process itself. Cybercitizens believe that U.S. moral problems including drugs and crime are more pressing than the economy.
On family values, Cyber Dialogue scooped its competition in one area that hit home, literally: which candidate Netizens would prefer to watch their children. Clinton wins overwhelmingly with 55 percent of the vote.
That's one less career option, it seems, for Bob Dole.