The "Cash-for-Clunkers" program, the healthcare debate, rising unemployment, the Swine flu and other issues drove more than than 81 million Americans, or 42% of the US internet audience, to US-government websites in July 2009, according to an analysis of the government site category, by comScore, Inc.
The analysis also found that users are generally happy with their experience on government websites, though this satisfaction still lags levels achieved by many larger consumer sites.
Top US Government Sites
Though the net number of visits to government sites did not change vs. the same period last year, the distribution of visits to specific sites has shifted. With 7.1 million visitors, the Department of Commerce (which includes substantial traffic at Weather.gov and the site for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA.gov) ranked as the most visited federal government web entity in July, though visits declined vs. a year ago.
The DOC sites are followed by those for the US Department of Education (ED.gov) with 7 million visitors, the National Institutes of Health (NIH.gov) with 6.9 million visitors, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS.gov) with 4.2 million visitors and the Social Security Administration (SSA.gov) with 3.3 million visitors.
Additional government site statistics:
- CARS.gov, which did not exist one year ago, logged nearly 2.1 million visitors because of the recent "Cash for Clunkers" auto trade-in incentive, while visitors to the government's fuel economy website were up 208% over last year.
- WhiteHouse.gov was up 88% vs. a year ago, to 1.1 million visitors, as Americans exhibited an interest in the policies and initiatives of President Obama.
- Both branches of the legislature showed impressive gains, with Senate.gov up 93% and House.gov up 73%, most likely because of the current debate over US healthcare reform.
Demographic Profile of Visitors to Government Category
Visitors to the government site category skew slightly toward the female, older-than-age-25 demographic, with higher household income than than the average US internet user, comScore found. Specifically, females are 5% more likely than average to visit the category, while 35-54 year-olds are 20% more likely. Those in households earning at least $60K annually are 6% more likely.
"The internet has evolved into an important channel for Americans to interact with the federal government and its agencies," said Dan Lackner, comScore SVP. Lackner added that President' Obama's January 21, 2009 directive to executive departments and agencies to use new technologies to dissemminate information to the public has spurred federal and state agencies and departments to invest more heavily in their web presence, and attempt to make their sites more citizen-centric and easier to interact with. "They are rapidly adopting and adapting best practices from the commercial sector and applying them to their own initiatives," he said.
Citizen Satisfaction with Government Web sites
According to related research from comScore, cosnumers generally give good marks about their experiences when visiting government websites. Customer satisfaction ratings on government sites (i.e. the percent of visitors saying they were satisfied) ranged from the low 70s to a rating of 81% for the Department of Education site, ED.gov, with approximately 71% of visitors saying they would recommend a government site to a friend.
comScore also reported that the overall average satisfaction rating for government websites is 76%, five to 10 percentage points behind consumers' ratings of the top e-commerce sites.
"Government website managers have made strides to improve the content and overall experience of visitors," added Lackner. "As [they] continue to embrace industry best practices, we can expect them to close the gap relative to their commercial counterparts."
In other research that shows the growing appeal of the US government, a recent survey by CareerBuilder.com found that four out of five US job seekers are now interested in government jobs.