Thursday, December 12, 1996
CONTACT: Kim Alexander or Andrea Cook
(916) 325-2120


Usage indicates healthy appetite for online voter information

San Francisco -- The California Voter Foundation's Fall '96 California Online Voter Guide was visited 32,672 times during a six-week period around the November 5th election, according to an analysis released today at the Politics Online Conference. The non-partisan election Web site registered a total of 200,552 file retrievals during that period -- an average of six file retrievals per visit.

"Our voter guide usage rates show that the public is indeed hungry for online election information," said Kim Alexander, executive director of the California Voter Foundation (CVF), a Sacramento-based non-profit organization. CVF's analysis found that the most popular feature of the voter guide was information on the 15 state ballot measures, which comprised 25 percent of all file retrievals. "California voters were faced once again with a dizzying array of complex ballot measures," Alexander said. "Voters are learning that they don't have to sit back and fall victim to manipulative ads and meaningless soundbites. Many are choosing to instead go out on the Internet and get informed."

The California Voter Foundation has earned a national reputation as a pioneer in the field of online voter education. The Fall '96 edition of the California Online Voter Guide is CVF's third statewide election Web site; the first guide, produced for the 1994 General Election, was accessed 14,000 times, with a total of 36,000 file retrievals.

"We start with the premise that people are busy and don't always have the time to get informed and involved," Alexander said, noting that several polls have concluded that time is the biggest barrier limiting civic participation. A recent Field Institute survey found that the number one reason Californians didn't vote in the last election was because they were "too busy". The Los Angeles Times drew the same conclusion in its 1995 and 1991 surveys of non-voters.

The Internet provides a way for citizens to learn about politics and elections at their own convenience, 24 hours a day, from work, home, school or the public library. The popularity of CVF's California Online Voter Guide is echoed in numerous other studies showing a growing relationship between politics and Internet use.

An exit poll conducted by Voter News Service found that 26 percent of those who voted in the Presidential election are regular Internet users, while a Wirthlin Worldwide poll found that nine percent of voters said information they found on the Internet influenced their vote. A survey conducted for Goddard-Claussen Consulting found that twelve percent of Californians who voted in the November 5 election - nearly one million voters - surfed the Web this year for election information.

"These findings underscore the impact the Internet is already having on politics," Alexander said. "The California Voter Foundation plans to continue exploring and developing this powerful medium and its potential for shaping a more informed and engaged electorate," she added, noting that the group is now seeking funding for a new Web site to help the public understand and participate in California's lawmaking process.

The California Online Voter Guide can be accessed through CVF's homepage at


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