How Policymakers Evaluate Online versus Offline Constituent Messages

20 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2018 Last revised: 28 Sep 2019

See all articles by Kaiping Chen

Kaiping Chen

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Nathan Lee

Stanford University, Department of Political Science

William Marble

Stanford University, Department of Political Science

Date Written: November 30, 2018

Abstract

The internet has made it easier than ever for citizens to voice their opinion to their elected representatives. However, theories of costly signaling suggest officials may infer that constituents who write to them via lower-effort online mediums care less about the issues than those who communicate in person. To examine this possibility, we fielded a national survey of local U.S. policymakers to examine responsiveness to different types of constituent messages. We find that policymakers rate social media messages as substantially less informative and less influential than identical messages delivered in person. However, this discount factor can be overcome through increased participation: our conjoint estimates imply that a message received online from 47 constituents is as influential as the same message received from a single constituent in person. Taken together, these findings illustrate the double-edged nature of low-cost communication technologies for representation in the digital era.

Suggested Citation

Chen, Kaiping and Lee, Nathan and Marble, William, How Policymakers Evaluate Online versus Offline Constituent Messages (November 30, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3251651 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3251651

Kaiping Chen

University of Wisconsin-Madison ( email )

1545 Observatory Drive
Hiram Smith Hall 316
Madison, WI Wisconsin 53706
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.kaipingchen.com

Nathan Lee (Contact Author)

Stanford University, Department of Political Science ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://people.stanford.edu/nathanrl/

William Marble

Stanford University, Department of Political Science ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

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