Library Notes for Political Science

Teaching resources, news, and links to keep McGill’s Political Scientists informed

Pew Internet Report: Internet and Civic Engagement

Posted by Megan on September 2, 2009

Social media is a hot discussion topic in the reporting of electoral politics. Pew Internet has released an analysis of a recent survey on the relationship between the internet and civic participation. According to the report, socio-economic status is “highly correlated with political activity,” whether the activity is online or not.

One message from this report is that the digital divide remains very pertinent to the study of civic engagement and access to information.

From the overview:

“Political and civic involvement have long been dominated by those with high levels of income and education, leading some advocates to hope that internet-based engagement might alter this pattern. However, a new report by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project shows that the internet is not changing the fundamental socio-economic character of civic engagement in America. When it comes to online activities such as contributing money, contacting a government official or signing an online petition, the wealthy and well-educated continue to lead the way.

Still, there are hints that the new forms of civic engagement anchored in blogs and social networking sites could alter long-standing patterns. Some 19% of internet users have posted material online about political or social issues or used a social networking site for some form of civic or political engagement. And this group of activists is disproportionately young.”

The full report, including discussion of methodology and the survey questions used, is available online.

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