The Pew Research Center often receives questions from visitors to our site and users of our studies about our findings and how the research behind them is carried out. In this feature, senior research staff answers questions relating to the areas covered by our seven projects ranging from polling techniques and findings, to media, technology, religious, demographic and global attitudes trends. We can’t promise to respond to all the questions that we receive from you, our readers, but we will try to provide answers to the most frequently received inquiries as well as to those that raise issues of particular interest.

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 Q. The Pew Internet & American Life Project has tracked the growing importance of the Internet and digital media and how these tools have been used during past campaigns. What kinds of new trends are you expecting to see in the 2012 campaign?

One of the most exciting things about our work studying politics is that each campaign cycle since 1994 has generated its own internet story. We expect that to happen again in 2012.

A little history: in 1994, the story was the appearance of the first campaign web site, by Senator Diane Feinstein. In 1996, web politics turned presidential. One of the top stories that year occurred when Republican nominee Bob Dole gave the wrong URL for his site during a nationally televised debate. But he didn’t seem to suffer any serious problem from the gaffe, demonstrating how peripheral internet politics was to the basic structure of a campaign just a decade ago.

By 1998, some clear internet effects began to emerge. Independent Jesse Ventura stunned the Minnesota political establishment by conducting an insurgent campaign that featured email communications. Two years later, GOP presidential candidate John McCain proved that candidates could raise a lot of money online and harness the power of the Internet as a source of political news and information.

During the 2002 midterm elections, work by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and the Center for the People & the Press showed that many voters were turning to the internet to get political information from multiple sources. The newest class of websites shaping online politics that year was interest group and advocacy organization sites.

In 2004 presidential race, Howard Dean’s campaign demonstrated how social networking tools like blogs and meetups could be effective in generating voter interest, recruiting and motivating volunteers and changing the interplay between citizens and campaigns.

The 2006 midterm election campaign was perhaps most famous for the rise of online video, highlighted by Virginia Republican