Pew: Citizens turn to Web for government info, data

About a quarter of adults have posted their own comments online about government issues, participated in an online town hall meeting or joined a group that tries to influence policies.

Some 40 percent of adults got online for raw data about government spending: 23 percent have looked into how federal stimulus money is being spent, 22 percent have read or downloaded a piece of legislation, and 14 percent have looked online to see who is contributing to certain elected officials.

But the Internet will not replace traditional means of communicating with the government anytime soon, the report showed. More than half of adults still use the telephone, letter or in-person visit to deal with the government. And 35 percent of adults say they still prefer to pick up the telephone and speak with someone live when they have to get in touch with the government.

Not surprisingly, high-income and well-educated Americans are more likely to access this kind of information online. The survey also found that whites are far more likely than African Americans or Latinos to participate in an online debate concerning government. Those racial differences lessen, though, when it comes to completing basic transactions on government websites.

Minorities also agreed that using tools like Facebook and Twitter are effective ways to get government information out to citizens.
Search engines are the most common starting point for finding government information across the board.

Read the full report here.