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Net Gains in Political Participation:


Keep up with news. Discuss Politics. Attend public meetings. Join local groups ... Local group discussions about politics. Online civic activity. 17. Civic ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Net Gains in Political Participation:

  • Net Gains in Political Participation
  • Secondary Effects of Internet on Community
  • A.Kavanaugh, B. J. Kim, M. Perez-Quinones,
  • J. Schmitz, P. Isenhour
  • Computer Science Department, Virginia Tech
  • Blacksburg, VA 24061-0106

Internet Effects on Civic Participation
  • Increased community and civic engagement among
  • explained by
  • Education
  • Age
  • Extroversion
  • mediated by
  • Collective efficacy
  • Group membership
  • Online civic activity
  • Activism

Kavanaugh, A., Carroll, J.M., Rosson, M.B.,
Reese, D.D. Zin, T.T. 2005. Participating in
Civil Society The case of networked communities.
Interacting with Computers 17, 9-33.
Research Questions
  • How and why does the passive majority of citizens
    use the Internet for political and civic
  • To what extent does the passive majority
    attribute any influence on their political
    participation to the Internet?

Bimber 1999, 2001 Chadwick 2006 Dutton 1999
Hague Loader, 1999 Norris 2000 Putnam 2000
Shane 2000, among others.
Levels of Political Participation
  • Active
  • 10 of total population
  • Passive
  • 70 of total population
  • Apathetic
  • 20 of total population

Verba, S., Schlozman, K., Brady, H. (1995)
Voice and Equality Civic Voluntarism in
American Politics, Harvard University Press,
Cambridge, MA.
Forms of Political Participation
  • Vote
  • Keep up with news
  • Discuss Politics
  • Attend public meetings
  • Join local groups
  • Donate money to political campaigns
  • Write to newspaper editor
  • Organize collective action
  • Work for a political candidate or issue

Case Study Blacksburg
  • Blacksburg, Virginia and Montgomery County
  • University town Virginia Tech 26,000 students
  • Total town and county population 76,000
  • Community computer network BEV
  • Mature, stable -- established 1993
  • 89 of population online 78 in county
  • Secondary effects have emerged

Household Survey Interviews
  • Two phone survey rounds (Spring 05, 06)
  • Round 1 (N717, 40 response rate)
  • Round 2 (N430, eligible sample 570)
  • Correlations, one-way ANOVA, paired t tests
  • Focus group interviews (Fall 05)
  • Subset of survey respondents
  • Stratified on political participation, Net use
  • Four sessions, 40 interviewees total
  • Analyzed using NVIVO software

Survey Constructs offline
  • Political efficacy, Collective efficacy
  • Civic Activity
  • Read news, attend meetings, religious service,
  • Political Interest
  • Attend political talk or meeting, contact
  • Political Activity
  • Work for political campaign, protest about local
  • Political discussion network

Political Discussion Network (Cronbach alpha.83,
  • Discuss politics with family
  • Discuss politics outside family
  • Attend public meeting about issue of interest
  • Speak up at public meeting about issue
  • Express opinion different from others

Survey Constructs Online
  • Civic Activity Online
  • Read news online
  • look for information on local community and
    government sites
  • Communicate with citizens about issue of interest
  • Post factual information for other citizens
  • Express opinion in online discussions
  • Political Activity
  • Work online for political campaign
  • Email government, try to influence policy

Correlations of Internet Use
Political Participation Quartiles
Passive-Active and Active CitizensDifferences
  • Passive-active citizens are significantly
    different from Active citizens on measures of
  • Civic Activity Offline
  • Political Activity Offline
  • Political Activity Online

Civic Political DifferencesPassive-Active and
plt.01 Post Hoc Multiple Comparisons
(Bonferroni) test used on all variables equal
variance are assumed Group superscripts indicate
significant differences between the respective
groups (Bonferroni test)
Civic Political Differences Passive-active
and Active
Passive-Active and Active CitizensSimilarities
  • Passive-active were similar to active citizens
    and are significantly different from
    passive-apathetic or apathetic on measures of
  • Political and collective efficacy
  • Local group discussions about politics
  • Online civic activity

Civic Political SimilaritiesPassive-Active
and Active
Similarities in Internet Effects Passive-Active
and Active
Passive-Active like Active Citizens
  • Passive-active citizens are similar to active
    citizens on measures of Internet effects
  • Internet has helped me become more involved in
    local issues that interest me.
  • Internet has improved my interaction with other
  • Internet has improved my interaction with local

Focus Group Profiles
Focus Group Politically Passive Net Users
  • I do like reading both sides of the argument on
    things that matter to me. The problem is, the
    Internet, I mean it reaches the whole world and
    so many of the things they are discussing dont
    have anything to do with me. And so I dont know
    why I have, I need to have an opinion on this or
    that. The things that I do have an opinion on
    Ive listened to and thought about and um, have
    based my decision on listening to both sides. You
    do need to listen to both sides. But I dont see
    why you have to have an opinion on everything.

Focus Group Politically Passive Net Users
  • I am somewhat active in the community because, I
    bike a lot. I commute to work and Im a firm
    believer that we should get an infrastructure for
    bicyclers biking to work, um, for many reasons
    So I am pretty active in like rails to trails
    and stuff like that. Bicycle advocacy groups. But
    most of that is through mailingslike the postal

Focus Group Politically Passive Net Users
  • Our entire community and neighborhood gets
    together and shows up at the forums or contacts
    the city manager or whoever the developer is that
    is going to do whatever and we are the
    proprietors to that large 3.5 acre lotthey keep
    on wanting to build up there and we keep on
    telling them aint going to happen. So weve got
    John who sends out the listserv and they go to
    you, you get some sort of information or at least
    you get some word to whats going on and we all
    show up.

Focus Group Passive-Active Net Users
  • Now how did you find those blogs?
  • My wife found them
  • I have to be honest with you, I dont know how
    to get into any of this stuff. She found them and
    she earmarked them or whatever you call it and I
    push the button.

Focus Group Passive-Active Net Users
  • Yeah, my daughter wrote a cheat for me to get
    into the email and I do read some of the blogs
    that I have a very clear map to get to. You know,
    push this button now type of thing. We started
    getting computers where I work about three years
    before I retired. I didnt use them at work and
    didnt have them when I was a kid.

  • Passive-active citizens are unlike active
    citizens on measures of offline political and
    civic activity
  • Passive-active citizens are unlike active
    citizens on measures of online politics
  • Passive-active citizens are similar to active
    citizens on measures of online civic activity,
    political discussion in local groups, and the
    effect of Internet on
  • Increasing involvement in local issues of
  • Improving interaction with citizens and local

  • There is a glimpse of the secondary effects of
    Internet use on the local political and civic
    participation of politically passive citizens
  • Politically passive citizens, like active
    citizens, are using the Internet to support and
    extend their civic interactions and activities

  • http//
  • This research is supported by the National
    Science Foundation, Digital Government Program
  • IIS-0492274