The majority of bloggers have personal rather than political motives for blogging, according to a new survey from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which says most are focused on describing their personal experiences to a relatively small audience of readers, while only a small proportion focus their coverage on politics, media, government, or technology.

The Pew project says the blog population in the U.S. has grown to about 12 million adults, or about 8 percent of adult internet users, and that the number of blog readers has now jumped to 57 million American adults, or 39 percent of the online population.

The most striking aspect of the survey is that it reveals how difficult it is to generalize about bloggers, with many of the responses within a few percentage point of 50 percent. For example:
• 54 percent of bloggers say that they have never published their writing or media creations anywhere else; 44 percent say they have published elsewhere.
• 54 percent of bloggers are under the age of 30.
• 40 percent of bloggers are non-white, making the blogosphere more racially diverse than the Internet as a whole
• Women and men have statistical parity in the blogosphere, with women representing 46 percent of bloggers and men 54 percent.

But when it comes to what motivates bloggers, the answers are clearer: 76 percent of bloggers say a reason they blog is to document their personal experiences and share them with others and 64 percent say a reason they blog is to share practical knowledge or skills with others. More than three-quarters (77 percent) have shared something online that they created themselves, like their own artwork, photos, stories, or videos. When asked to choose one main subject, 37 percent of bloggers say that the primary topic of their blog is “my life and experiences.”

Other topics ran distantly behind: 11 percent of bloggers focus on politics and government; 7 percent focus on entertainment; 6 percent focus on sports; 5 percent focus on general news and current events; 5 percent focus on business; 4 percent on technology; 2 percent on religion, spirituality or faith; and additional smaller groups who focus on a specific hobby, a health problem or illness, or other topics.

“Blogs are as individual as the people who keep them, but this survey shows that most bloggers are primarily interested in creative, personal expression,” says senior research specialist Amanda Lenhart. “Blogs make it easy to document individual experiences, share practical knowledge, or just keep in touch with friends and family.”

That stands in contrast to much of the media coverage of blogging, which tends to focus on their influence in the political realm.

But only 34 percent of respondents said they saw their blogging as a form of journalism and just over a third of bloggers said they engage often in journalistic activities such as verifying facts and linking to source material. More than 40 percent of bloggers said they never quote sources or other media directly.

”Much of the public and press attention to bloggers has focused on the small number of high-traffic, A-list bloggers,” says Pew associate director Susannah Fox. “By asking a wide range of bloggers what they do and why they do it, we have found a different kind of story about the power of the internet to encourage creativity and community among all kinds of internet users.”

Other findings:
• 87 percent of bloggers allow comments on their blog
• 72 percent of bloggers post photos to their blog
• 55 percent of bloggers blog under a pseudonym
• 41 percent of bloggers say they have a blogroll or friends list on their blog
• 8 percent of bloggers earn money on their blog