Revitalising Particpatory Politics?: The Internet, Social Capital and Political Action
Rachel K. Gibson
University of Manchester
Australian National University (ANU) - Research School of Social Sciences (RSSS)
APSA 2009 Toronto Meeting Paper
Recent work from the U.S. has demonstrated positive effects of internet use on individuals' levels of sociability which have in turn been linked to the development of democratic behaviors and norms. This paper extends this research by examining the links between internet use, social capital and political engagement in Australia, using data from the 2007 Australian Election Study (AES) which directly replicated questions asked in a 2005 U.S. study (Kittilson and Dalton, 2008). We first measure levels of online interpersonal contacting among Australians, dividing these into bridging and bonding associations and then assess how far such behavior links to democratic engagement in terms of promoting attitudes supportive of democratic institutions and political participation. Our findings show that online social capital and particularly the bonding version is positively associated with levels of political efficacy and active engagement. We conclude that the Australian case provides further support for the argument that the internet offers an important new platform for social group activity that in turn may be helping to foster and sustain democratic norms and activities.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 24
Keywords: internet, social capital, political engagement, participationworking papers series
Date posted: August 13, 2009 ; Last revised: October 2, 2009
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