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More Americans Look to the Web for Government Info

More Americans Look to the Web for Government Info
As we've said before, regardless of your political affiliation, it's hard to argue with the fact that the Obama administration has helped to usher in the Government 2.0 era. It's not just the feds, though. Local and state governments are taking tentative steps towards digital transparency too, offering scads of raw data and information via revamped websites. According to a recent survey from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, these new tools aren't going to waste either, as more and more people are turning to government-run sites to find out about benefits, services, legislation and statistics.

Perhaps most surprising about the findings is just how many Americans are digging deep into the information available. According to Pew, 40-percent of adult Internet users have used government sites to look at so-called raw data, like unprocessed stats about stimulus spending, the full texts of bills and campaign contribution data. In total, 81-percent of those polled had received information about government policy and programs from the Web, including online videos and social networking services.

Despite usually lagging behind in both technology adoption and government participation, American minority groups are turning to these sites just as much as their White counterparts. African Americans and Latinos were much more likely to look upon the availability of online information as a positive step towards transparency and accessibility.

Not all were impressed, of course. Those who accessed the Web the least said that Washington had become less transparent since 2007. It's inevitable that, with the move to a data-driven, Web-based system for information dispersal, some would get left behind. But in light of another recent Pew survey, which found faith in the government to be at its lowest point in 50 years, this perceived inaccessibility may only buttress that attitude of mistrust.

Even though the numbers tend to diverge along party lines (with 65-percent of digitally engaged Democrats believing the federal government was more open and accountable, and only 17-percent of Republicans believing the same), there is reason to be optimistic about the future of American political discourse. The number of Americans turning to raw data may mean that fewer opinions are being cultivated by those mainstream media outlets that tend to wear their biases on their sleeves (namely Fox and MSNBC). By taking a more objective and complex view of how the federal government works, citizens might not only become more engaged, but also more appreciative of the challenges facing the feds. [From: Pew Internet and American Life Project, via: Ars Technica]

Tags: BarackObama, government, politics, survey, top, transparency, web

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