May 3, 2010
Online Government Data Usage and Attitutes Toward Government Openness from New Pew Internet Survey
"Government agencies have begun to open up their data to the public, and a surprisingly large number of citizens are showing interest" according to Pew Internet's announcement of its recent Government Online survey. Key findings include:
Data driven – Efforts by government agencies to post their data online are resonating with citizens. Fully 40% of online adults went online in the preceding year to access data and information about government.
Organized around new online platforms – Citizen interactions with government are moving beyond the website. Nearly one third (31%) of online adults use online platforms such as blogs, social networking sites, email, online video or text messaging to get government information.
Participatory – Americans are not simply going online for data and information; they want to share their personal views on the business of government. Nearly one quarter (23%) of internet users participate in the online debate around government policies or issues, with much of this discussion occurring outside of official government channels.
The extent to which citizens go online to access data on the business of government. In total, 40% of internet users have gone online in the past 12 months for one or more of these reasons.
- 23% of Internet users to look online to see how federal stimulus money is being spent
- 22% to read or download the text of legislation
- 16% to visit a site such as data.gov that provides access to government data
- 14% to research campaign contributors and contributions to the campaigns of their elected officials
From "Part Four: Online government data and information" of the Report:
Among internet users, the use of these services also varies somewhat by political ideology and party affiliation. Conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats are especially likely to go online to look up stimulus spending (29% of conservative Republicans and 28% of liberal Democrats have done this) and political contributions (24% and 20% respectively), while political independents (19%) and liberal Democrats (26%) are the groups that are most likely to go to sites such as data.gov that offer access to government data. Overall, liberal Democrats are most likely to access any type of government data online (54% of internet users in this group are government data users, compared with 43% of conservative Republicans and 41% of political independents).
Political attitudes outweigh government data when it comes to views on government openness. From Part Four of the Report:
Self-identified Democrats tend to have more positive views of the federal government’s openness and accountability if they also access government data online, while Republicans tend to have less positive views regardless of whether or not they are government data users. These associations persist even when we control statistically for factors such as demographics, partisan ideology, technology ownership and usage of other online government offerings. The same relationship holds for independent voters who lean towards one party over another. Among Democratic-leaning independents, 59% of government data users feel that the federal government is more open and accountable compared with two years ago, compared with 45% of such voters who go online but do not use government data and 29% of Democratic-leaning independents who do not go online. Among Republican-leaning independents, 26% of government data users have positive views towards the federal government’s openness and accountability; this is little different from the 21% of such voters who go online but do not use government data services who feel the same way. Put simply, political concerns trump access to data when it comes to one’s attitudes towards government openness.