Blog Political Science and Public Administration

Eva Anduiza (UAB)

 

The main findings of the Polnet (www.polnetuab.net) which analyzes the impact of Internet on citizen involvement in politics reveal that there is scope for modest optimism. Online political participation is not yet mainstream, but it mobilizes a significant number of Internet users who lack interest in more traditional ways of participating. In addition, although Internet use is still closely linked to a person’s level of studies and income, it can create an interest in politics, generate feelings of competence regarding political matters, and encourage some types of offline participation.

 

The project tackles questions like the following, principally through use of survey data: How and to what extent do citizens use Internet to get politically involved? To what extent is this political use of Internet constrained by traditional socioeconomic inequalities, as other types of participation are? What factors can explain online political participation? Is online participation an alternative or complement to traditional ways? What consequences does the use of Internet (not specifically for political purposes) have regarding political attitudes, participation and equality?

 

Main Conclusions

 

There is still only a minority of people who use Internet for political purposes. Political participation through use of Internet continues to be limited. 45% of web users seek political information online, though only 8% have made an online donation to some cause, 5% have contacted a politician through this medium, and 14% have signed an electronic petition. 19% of Internet users have consulted the web page of a political party, 27% have received email criticizing a party or candidate, and 11% have received email supporting a party or candidate.

 

Access to Internet is strictly limited by socio-demographic characteristics, but political participation is not, once a person has gained access to the Net. There is a definite socio-economic bias regarding both general and political use of Internet: web users and political participants are not representative of the population as a whole. This bias is moderate for gender and age, and it is significant for level of studies and income. If we analyze what factors affect participation online once a person is an Internet user, we find that internet skills an online mobilization are the main ones. Other relevant, though less important, factors are: socio-economic resources (which are decisive for Internet use, but not so much for participation), motivation (attitudes such as having an interest in politics), and mobilization through other channels.

 

Online participation intensifies the involvement of offline participants, but it also mobilizes new participants. 28% of nternet users increase their offline participation with online actions. 15% of users become politically involved only online, without participating in traditional ways. While there is some mobilization of new participants, an increase in participation level by those who are already politically active is the most usual case.

 

Face-to-face contact continues to be essential. Political actors and activists use Internet to do the same types of things they had previously done offline. Internet therefore does not substitute, but rather complements efforts to mobilize people. Although calls to action through email are common, they are carried out via organizational networks and are based on previous participation.

 

The use of Internet can change attitudes and behavior. There is a significant positive relationship between use of Internet and variables like internal efficacy (the feeling that one understands and can influence politics), political knowledge, and non-representative modes of participation (political protest, political consumerism).

 

Project Details

 

Polnet analyzes three types of data: surveys of citizens, discussion group findings, and surveys of demonstrators. The most important source of information is CIS (Center for Sociological Research) study number 2736, designed by the research team for a representative sample of the Spanish population, and administered to 3,716 people. The survey can be downloaded from www.cis.es at no cost.

 

The project is financed by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (SEJ2007-60082), the Dirección General de Participación del Gobierno de Aragón, and the Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas (CIS). Participants in the project: Eva Anduiza, Rosa Borge, Marta Cantijoch, Clelia Colombo, Camilo Cristancho, Aina Gallego, Mike Jensen, Laia Jorba, Jorge Salcedo, y Josep SanMartín.

 

Related Publications

 

Anduiza, Eva, Aina Gallego and Marta Cantijoch (2010). “Online political participation in Spain: the impact of traditional and internet resources”, Journal of Information Tecnology and Politics 7:4.

 

Anduiza, Eva, Aina Gallego, Marta Cantijoch, and Jorge Salcedo (2010). Internet y participación política en España: Madrid: CIS, Col. Opiniones y Actitudes.

 

Anduiza, Eva et al (2009). Internet, participació, mobilització: la implicació política de la ciutadania en un nou entorn comunicatiu. Barcelona: Generalitat de

 

Online Political Participation in Spain: The Impact of Traditional and Internet Resources

Opiniones y actitudes: Internet y participación política