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DNC’s Twitter victory wasn’t won on a level playing field

First lady Michelle Obama speaks at the Hispanic caucus at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC.

First lady Michelle Obama speaks at the Hispanic caucus at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC. // David Goldman/AP

Michelle Obama’s ability to inspire nearly twice as many tweets per minute as Republican nominee Mitt Romney during her Democratic National Convention speech Tuesday night may have been due to more than being “personal and real.

The first lady had a home turf advantage. Democrats are significantly more likely than Republicans or independents to say social networking sites are important to them, according to a study released Tuesday by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Nearly 50 percent of Democratic social media users told researchers that social sites are important for “keeping up with political news” compared to about 34 percent of Republicans.

About 35 percent of Democrats said the sites were important for “recruiting people to get involved with political issues,” “finding other people who share your views,” and “debating or discussing political issues” compared to about 25 percent of Republicans.

The Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C., spawned about 3 million tweets during its first night compared with 4 million tweets during the entirety of the three-night Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., according to a Tuesday blog post from Twitter officials.

President Obama made recruiting and fundraising through social networking sites a cornerstone of his 2008 campaign and has renewed the practice this election cycle, often concentrating social media power in crucial swing states.

The president closed an unannounced “ask me anything” question-and-answer session on the social networking site Reddit last week by urging “redditors” to “REMEMBER TO VOTE IN NOVEMBER” and noting “if you need to know how to register, go to Gottaregister.com.” The “AMA threatened several times to overwhelm the site.

Republican forays into social media, by comparison, have been more limited. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has about 6 million Facebook likes compared to Obama’s 28 million and 1 million Twitter followers to the president’s 19 million.

The Pew survey also revealed that 25 percent of social media users say they’ve become more interested in a political issue after reading about it on a social site and 16 percent say they’ve changed their minds about a political issue after discussing or reading about it on social sites.

About 85 percent of social networkers told researchers they’ve posted little or nothing related to politics or the 2012 election campaign recently. Only 6 percent said “most or all” of their posts to social networking sites are political.

A previous Pew study found that nearly three-quarters of online Americans used the Internet for political news during the 2010 midterm elections, but only one-fifth turned to social networking sites for political purposes during that election.

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// September 19
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