Traditional Cleavages or a New World: Does Online Social Networking Bridge the Political Participation Divide?
- 1.2k Downloads
There is a growing literature that examines the effects of the Internet on political participation. We seek to contribute to this literature by exploring how online social networking may stimulate online political participation. Using survey data from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, we confirm a strong positive relationship and show that this effect is driven by the level of political exchange within networks. Further, we explore the potential for the Internet to dissipate traditional cleavages in participation that tend to mirror the inequalities in the availability and use of technology. The findings suggest that while many of the “have-nots” do engage in online networking at higher rates than their counterparts, they are less likely to be exposed to political exchanges within their networks. As a result, the effect of online networking on participation is more pronounced for the “haves.” We discuss the implications of these findings.
KeywordsSocial media Political participation Digital divide Social class
- Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital. In J. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of theory and research for the sociology of education. New York: Greenwood.Google Scholar
- Burns, N., Schlozman, K. L., & Verba, S. (2001). The private roots of public action: gender, equality, and political participation. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Carpini, D., Michael, X., & Keeter, S. (1996). What Americans know about politics and why it matters. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
- Coleman, J. S. (1990). Foundations of social theory. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Dahl, R. A. (1989). Democracy and its critics. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
- Ellison, N. B., Steinfeld, C., & Lampe, C. (2007). The benefits of Facebook “friends:” social capital and college students' use of online social network sites. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12(4).Google Scholar
- Gainous, J., & Wagner, K. (2007). The electronic ballot box: a rational voting model and the internet. American Review of Politics, 28(Spring and Summer), 19–35.Google Scholar
- Gainous, J., & Wagner, K. M. (2011). Rebooting American politics: the internet revolution. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
- Hoge, P. (January 26, 2009). Facebook dethrones MySpace. Jacksonville Business Journal.Google Scholar
- Lenhart, A. (2009). Adults and social network websites. Pew Internet & American Life Project, January 14. Washington: Pew Research Center. Available: http://www.pewInternet.org/Reports/2009/Adults-and-Social-Network-Websites.aspx.. Accessed: 18 March 2010.
- Little, R. J. A., & Rubin D. B. (1987). Statistical analysis with missing data. New York: Wiley. Led by Facebook, Twitter, global time spend on social media sites up 82 % year over year. Nielsenwire.com, January 22, 2010. http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/global/led-by-facebook-twitter-global-time-spent-on-social-media-sites-up-82-year-over-year/. Accessed: 15 March 2010.
- McClurg, S. D. (2003). Social networks and political participation: the role of social interaction in explaining political participation. Political Research Quarterly, 56(4), 449–464.Google Scholar
- Mossberger, K., Tolbert, C. J., & Stansbury, M. (2003). Virtual inequality: beyond the digital divide. Washington: Georgetown University Press.Google Scholar
- Mossberger, K., Tolbert, C. J., & McNeal, R. S. (2008). Digital citizenship: the internet, society and participation. Cambridge: MIT.Google Scholar
- Nielson (2010). Led by Facebook, Twitter, Global Time Spent on Social Media Sites up 82 % Year over Year. Available: http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/global/led-by-facebook-twitterglobal-time-spent-on-social-media-sites-up-82-year-over-year/. Accessed: 25 January 2013.
- Nyland, R., Raquel, M., & Jason, B. (2007). MySpace: social networking or social isolation? Paper Presented at the Midwinter Conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, February 23–24, Reno.Google Scholar
- Putnam, R. D. (1995a). Tuning in, tuning out: the strange disappearance of social capital in America. In R. G. Niemi & H. F. Weisberg (Eds.), Controversies in voting behavior. Washington: CQ.Google Scholar
- Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone: the collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
- Putnam, R. D., Feldstein, L. M., & Cohen, D. (2003). Better together: restoring the American community. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
- Schuller T. (2000). Social and human capital: the search for appropriate technomethodology. Policy Studies, 21(1), 25–35.Google Scholar
- Verba, S., & Nie, N. H. (1972). Participation in America: political democracy and social equality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Verba, S., Schlozman, K. L., & Brady, H. E. (1995). Voice and equality: civic voluntarism in American politics. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar