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Unraveling the Effects of the Internet on Political Participation?
Political Research Quarterly (2003)
  • Caroline J. Tolbert, University of Iowa
  • Ramona S. McNeal
While a long tradition of research documents the demographic and psychological determinants of political participation, there is also evidence to suggest that changes in communication technology may play an important role in influencing electoral behavior. We suggest traditional models of voter turnout may be under-specified with respect to changes in the media, especially use of new information technologies. The Internet may enhance voter information about candidates and elections, and in turn stimulate increased participation. Using NES survey data and multivariate analysis we find respondents with access to the Internet and online election news were significantly more likely to report voting in the 1996 and 2000 presidential elections. This was true even after controlling for socioeconomic status, partisanship, attitudes, traditional media use, and state environmental factors. Simulations suggest access to Internet and online election news significantly increased the probability of voting by an average of 12 percent and 7.5 percent, respectively, in the 2000 election. The mobilizing potential of the Internet in 2000 was also associated with increased participation beyond voting. The findings help us understand how technology can impact voting and American political participation.
Publication Date
June, 2003
Citation Information
Caroline J. Tolbert and Ramona S. McNeal. "Unraveling the Effects of the Internet on Political Participation?" Political Research Quarterly Vol. 56 Iss. 2 (2003)
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