Voters visit Obama, McCain sites to research key issues

Supporters of presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama appear to be more inclined to use the Web to find information. The Illinois senator’s campaign Web site is receiving nearly four times as much traffic as that of his presumed Republican rival, Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

However, according to a study released by online research company Hitwise Pty. Ltd., visitors to both sites in the second quarter of the year were interested in many of the same issues.

“Searches show that voters on both sides of the aisle have shared concerns around issues such as health care, global warming and immigration,” said research director Heather Dougherty.

Education also made it into the top five search terms for both campaign sites. Abortion was the one of the top terms for the Obama site, while oil prices made it into McCain’s top-five terms.

Hitwise, a subsidiary of Experian that provides information on visitor behavior on competing Web sites, analyzed how traffic was being driven to http://www.barackobama.com and http://www.johnmccain.com in the first six months of the year.

Although the Web has been a factor in the past two presidential election cycles, this campaign marks the first in which every significant candidate for nomination has established an official Web site. The Internet has also been a valuable tool for grass-roots fundraising.

Since the candidates essentially locked up the nominations of their respective parties, the Obama site received 79.25 percent of the traffic measured in June, compared with 20.75 percent for McCain.

Despite the volume of traffic going to Obama’s site, an analysis of search terms from April through June of this year seems to indicate that Obama is still working to establish his identity with the public. Twenty-four percent of searches that led visitors to his site were looking for biographical material, down from 34 percent in the first quarter. Just 15 percent were searching for information on issues and views, which was the top category on McCain’s site, accounting for 32 percent of visits.

Obama also appears to be dealing much more with rumors and questions about religion, issues that drove 17 percent of visits in the second quarter, while McCain saw 22 percent of his visits driven by questions about his campaign and family.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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