Authors: Eszter Hargittai and Aaron Shaw
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Citation: Hargittai, E. & Shaw, A. (2013). Digitally Savvy Citizenship: The Role of Internet Skills and Engagement in Young Adults' Political Participation around the 2008 Presidential Elections. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media. 57(4):115-134.
Popular narratives assume that digital media play a central role mobilizing voters and especially young adults. Based on unique survey data of a diverse group or young adults from Spring, 2009, we consider the relationship between differentiated Internet uses, and online and offline political engagement around the time of the 2008 presidential elections. Thanks to our rich data set, we are able to consider both online and offline activities while taking into consideration more traditional measures. Our findings suggest that online forms of political engagement complement offline engagement. The pathways to young adults' political participation remain relatively stable. We also find an association between Internet skills, social network site usage and greater levels of engagement. These findings imply that although Internet usage alone is unlikely to transform existing patterns in political participation radically, it may facilitate the creation of new pathways for engagement.
The authors are grateful for a generous grant (#87311) from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation that made this project possible. They thank participants in the workshops of Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research and Harvard’s BerkmanCenter for Internet & Society for their valuable feedback. A previous version of this paper was presented at the Midwest Political Science Association 2011 meetings and the American Sociological Association 2011 meetings. The authors appreciate the assistance of Ericka Menchen-Trevino and Jessica Diamond with data collection, Cassi Saari with background research, and the undergraduate research assistants of the Web Use Project group in 2009 for data entry. The helpful support of Ann Feldman and Tom Moss is kindly acknowledged. The authors are also grateful to the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University for its support.
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