cr> Donna Hoffman: Net is Mainstream and Votes!


Craig A. Johnson


Date:          Thu, 1 Feb 1996 14:50:29 -0600
From:          Donna Hoffman <•••@••.•••>
To:            •••@••.•••
Subject:       Net is Mainstream and Votes!

Cyberspace to Congress: The Net is Mainstream -- and it Votes!

By Professor Donna L. Hoffman

You would think from the way that Congress is rushing to censor
"indecency" on the Internet that cyberspace is a virtual den of
iniquity and pornographic debasement. In the interests of
promoting a bit more sanity in the halls of Congress, allow me to
offer a few facts about the real nature of the "cyberporn" threat and
about the character of the fast-growing community of Americans online.

First, let's be clear that what we're really talking about here --
pornography -- actually constitutes an infinitesimally-small
percentage of all online information. Indeed, Marty Rimm's ill fated
study of pornography on the "information superhighway" revealed that
less than 1/2 of 1% of all images on the Internet were likely to
consist of porn.

But never mind that somewhat inconvenient fact. Congress in its
infinitely-debatable wisdom, has chosen to "save" America's
children not by finally fixing our broken school systems -- that,
after all, would be hard and complex work -- but by attempting instead
to shield families from "indecency" (a sure vote-getter).

But guess what? It turns out that the majority of online users are
*not* lonely sex-deprived (or depraved) single males but families!
That's right, 42% of those on the Web are married and another 9%
report living with a partner, while only 41% are single. And 35% of
Web-using households contain children.

What's more, according to the latest GVU/Hermes survey of Web
users, 29 percent of Web users globally are female (the percentage of
female users rises to 33% in the United States), 40% are 36 years old
or over, almost a third of the respondents make less than $30,000 a
year, and nearly half make less than $50,000 a year.

Indeed, the best research available indicates that cyberspace is
increasingly going mainstream. Aside from the strong family
orientation of Internet users -- and the increasing prevalence of
women -- ever more middle-class and working-class people are joining
the ranks of the "wired." Occupationally, more students, more people
in sales and service work, more retired people, and more people in a
more diverse variety of occupations (e.g. day laborers, crafts people,
homemakers and others) are online everyday, as are people reporting
smaller annual household incomes (especially under than $30,000).

As for the political persuasion of Internet users, the facts are
rather startling. Despite the image of cyberspace as some stomping
ground of the liberal elite, the fact of the matter is that there are
significantly more Republicans and Independents online than Democrats.
And while online users are nearly indistinguishable from people not
online in terms of political party affiliation and who they voted for
in the 1992 Presidential election and 1994 House elections, online
users are *much more likely to vote* than people not online.  Consider
the following statistics from the Times Mirror 1995 Technology in the
American Household study:

Party Identification and Voting Behavior

Party                   Online  Not Online      

Democrat                25%             29%     
Independent             43%             40%     
Republican              32%             31%

    100%                100%    

1992 Presidential Vote (among voters)

Candidate               Online  Not Online      

Bush                    37%             38%                     
Clinton                 44%             45%             
Perot                   18%             17%

   100%         100%                    

1994 House Vote (among voters)

Party                   Online  Not Online      

Democrat                43%             44%                     
Republican              55%             54%                     
Other                   2%              2%

   100%         100%                    

Percent Who Voted in 1994

Age             Online Users    Not Online

18-29           32%                     15%             
30-49           58%                     46%
50-64           80%                     58%

65+             *                       61%

  100%                  100%

* too few cases to estimate reliably

Source: Times Mirror Center for the People and the Press (now the Pew
Research Center) "Technology in the American Household" 1995 study.

Oh yes, and one other little tidbit for Congress to consider: the
majority of online users *oppose* current efforts to censor content on
the Internet.

Given these figures, one has to wonder if the Republican Congress is
shooting itself in the foot -- alienating precisely the constituency
whose support it will need to win the White House in 1996 -- by voting
for a censorship bill that will, according to virtually all
constitutional scholars, in any event probably be overturned by the

Congress take heed: the citizens of cyberspace represent a
politically diverse and demographically varied voting population.
Attempt to censor them only at your peril.
__________________________________________________________ Donna L.
Hoffman is an Associate Professor of Management at Vanderbilt
University and co-directs Project 2000 (
at the Owen School.


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