Facebook is... Fostering Political Engagement: A Study of Online Social Networking Groups and Offline Participation
23 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 4 Jul 2014
Date Written: 2009
Can online groups help to foster political engagement among citizens? We employ a multi-method design incorporating content analysis of political group pages and original survey research of university undergraduates (n = 455) to assess the quality of online political group discussion and effects of online group membership on political engagement measured through political knowledge and political participation surrounding the 2008 election. We find through OLS and 2SLS multivariate regression analyses that participation in online political groups strongly predicts offline political participation by engaging members online. However, we fail to confirm through 2SLS that there is a corresponding positive effect on political knowledge, likely due to low quality online group discussion. This work contributes to an active dialogue on political usage of the Internet and civic engagement by further specifying forms of Internet use and corresponding effects. Overall, we conclude that online groups perform many of the same positive civic functions as offline groups, specifically in terms of mobilizing political participation.
Keywords: Facebook, new media, civic engagement, political participation
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