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Analyzing the Democratic Potential of the Internet: A Comparative Study of Offline and Online Modes

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1 Author(s)
Taewoo Nam ; SUNY, Univ. at Albany, Albany, NY, USA

Analyzing the Pew Research Center's national survey in 2008, this paper assesses democratic potentials of the Internet for political participation. It focuses on U.S. citizens' four different political activities in both offline and online modes: casual political talk, contact with a government official, petition, and political contribution. The study answers two research inquiries: 1) How does the Internet influence the established patterns of political participation?; and 2) How does the Internet influence the demographic distribution of participatory (in)equality? First, the Internet, by providing the existing participants with additional tools for participation, reinforces conventional participation rather than mobilizes new participation in politics. Second, the online patterns of the participation divide with respect to demographic characteristics imitate the traditional patterns of inequality and disproportionate representativeness in political participation.

Published in:

System Sciences (HICSS), 2011 44th Hawaii International Conference on

Date of Conference:

4-7 Jan. 2011