Cyber-Participation: Reducing Bias and Increasing Turnout
Steinberg, Alan F. 1982-
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One of the key ideals behind the American system of democracy is that everyone can and will participate. Reality is unlike the ideal of democracy due to the social barriers of participation. The ability to engage politically through mediums such as Facebook, will allow greater diversity of participation and increase turnout among those who utilize these tools. Prior research shows that political participation is biased toward people who are older, have higher than average levels of education, have above average income, are non-minorities, and are male. Internet communication technologies and the Web 2.0 environment in particular offer a solution to the biases found in the current means of political participation by being lower cost and more accessible options for political engagement. This study provides an argument on the similarities of political activities that can take place in cyberspace as compared to traditional means of participation. Data utilized includes national survey respondent’s use of online social networking websites to engage politically in the 2008 and 2010 election cycles, as well as a student sample regarding 2012 election intentions. The study then examines the association between these forms of cyber-participation and turnout in order to demonstrate that cyber-participation has a positive effect on turnout. Findings suggest that cyber-participation is a unique but equitable form of political participation, utilized by a wider variety of people than traditional modes of participation, and that people who engage in cyber-participation are more likely to vote.