At this point in the campaign, 8 percent of Internet users, representing 6 percent of all adults, have donated money to a candidate online — a notable increase from the 3 percent of Internet users who reported ever donating money online in Pew's 20006 survey.
The latest national Pew Internet & American Life telephone survey was completed in April and early May before Obama sewed up the Democratic nomination, and it had more than 2, 251 respondents.
Obama supporters were more likely than supporters of former candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton to be Internet users — 82 percent to 71 percent.
Among online Democrats, Obama supporters are more likely than Clinton supporters to have made online campaign contributions (17 percent vs. 8 percent), to sign online petitions (24 percent vs. 11 percent), to have passed along political commentaries in blogs and other forms (23 percent vs. 13 percent) and to have watched campaign videos of any kind (64 percent vs. 43 percent), the survey found.
"It's interesting now to see that Obama has blazed new trails with social networking and Internet video and that his supporters are really appreciating that," Rainie said.
Rainie said interest in the 2008 presidential race and an explosion of technology in media have created a perfect storm where Americans are going online for news about the race far more than in the past.
In 2000, just 16 percent of people said they looked online for political news, while that number reached 40 percent in 2008.
Much of the growth in online political news and information consumption has occurred among young people, those with college degrees and people with high incomes.
There are also signs that race has become a nonfactor in online political usage.
About 40 percent of all adults — whites and blacks, and 43 percent of Hispanics — reported looking online for news and campaign information about politics or the campaigns. That's up from the 2004 campaign, where only 19 percent of blacks, 31 percent of Hispanics and 32 percent of whites reported turning to the Internet for political news and information. The poll didn't give figures for other groups.
That explosion of online political usage has some wondering how far politicians like Obama can take their self-described online "movement."
"There's a lot of potential and there's lots that can be done with an administration that really values and understands how technology can help us do a lot of the things we have been doing, better," Hughes said.
Asked whether he would consider working for the administration if Obama wins the White House, Hughes said he hasn't even thought about it.
"Everything's possible," he said. "But right now I'm just totally focused on the campaign."