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'Facebook Effect' Mobilizes Youth Vote

This story was written by Michelle Sullivan, The Lantern

Ohio college students have used mainly the Internet and its social networks this election season to learn about the presidential candidates and promote their favorites, according to a poll by CBS News, UWIRE and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Students were surveyed in the swing states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Colorado. Those who reported using the Internet to network and obtain election information were more likely to say they will definitely vote, are more enthusiastic about their candidate and are less likely to change their mind before Tuesday's election than students who do not use online social networks.

These results support the idea of the "Facebook Effect," as Newsweek calls it. Social networking sites have increased youth mobilization this election season by creating a way for students to share and access campaign information and support candidates.

"Part of this is driven by the generational divide in how we consume political information on a daily basis," said Erik Nisbet, assistant professor of communication and liaison for the study, in an e-mail.

Fifty-eight percent of students polled in Ohio reported accessing the Internet every day for election news and information. Printed newspapers serve as a daily source of political information for just 15 percent. Nearly that many say they visit online blogs and Web sites such as Facebook and MySpace every day to read and share election information.

Sixty-six percent of students surveyed in Ohio reported accessing YouTube for election videos and information.

The use of social Web sites does vary between students who support Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and those who support Republican presidential candidate John McCain, according to poll results from all four states.

Students who prefer Obama were more likely to have reported visiting the candidate's Web site, visiting the candidate's Facebook or MySpace page, signing up as a fan of the candidate or joining a group supporting the candidate on Facebook or MySpace than students who prefer McCain.

Though most prominent, the Internet is not the only way students are discussing candidates and issues. More than 50 percent of students in Ohio, including students at Ohio State's Newark campus, say they participate in political discussions within the classroom one or more times a week.

Oddly, this is not the case for OSU students in Columbus. Just 40 percent reported political classroom discussions one or more times a week.

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