How do Americans learn about community issues?
In a recent PEW report by Aaron Smith on Neighborhood Communications, the article reveals how Americans use a range of approaches to keep informed about what is happening in their communities and how online activities have been added to the mix. Although face-to-face encounters and phone calls remain the most frequent method of interaction with neighbors, internet tools are gaining ground in community-oriented communications.
Below are the highlights from the poll conducted by PEW when they asked about online connections to communities and neighbors and found that in the twelve months preceding the survey:
- 22% of all adults (representing 28% of internet users) signed up to receive alerts about local issues (such as traffic, school events, weather warnings or crime alerts) via email or text messaging.
- 20% of all adults (27% of internet users) used digital tools to talk to their neighbors and keep informed about community issues.
46% of Americans talked face-to-face with neighbors about community issues
21% discussed community issues over the telephone
11% read a blog dealing with community issues
9% exchanged emails with neighbors about community issues and 5% say they belong to a community email listserv
4% communicated with neighbors by text messaging on cell phones
4% joined a social network site group connected to community issues
2% followed neighbors using Twitter
Fourteen percent (14%) of internet users – or 11% of all American adults – read a blog dealing with community issues making community blogs as common as email communications as a way to keep up with neighborhood events. Community blogs are particularly popular among residents of urban areas, as 17% of wired urbanites read a blog dealing with community issues.
This is significantly higher than the 11% online rural residents who read such blogs. Online whites (14%), blacks (18%) and Hispanics (13%) are equally likely to read community blogs, and there is relatively little variation on this question based on income and education.
Nearly one in ten social network users (8%) joined an online group focused on community issues in the preceding twelve months—that works out to 5% of all internet users and 4% of all American adults.
Among adults who use Twitter or other status update services, 14% use these sites to follow their neighbors—that works out to 3% of all internet users and 2% of all American adults.
Women are more likely than men to belong to online neighborhood groups—9% of online women are part of such a group, compared with 5% of men. There is also some variation around race and ethnicity: among internet users whites (8%) are more likely than Latinos (3%) to belong to such groups (8% of online African-Americans belong to a community forum or email list).
It is also notable that relatively large number of young adults and minority Americans use tools such as community blogs, social networking sites and text messaging to keep up with neighborhood events--especially since these groups are generally less likely than whites and older adults to talk about community issues via the telephone or face-to-face interactions.