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Does Facebook increase political participation? Evidence from a field experiment

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Abstract and Figures

During the last decade, much of political behaviour research has come to be concerned with the impact of the Internet, and more recently social networking sites such as Facebook, on political and civic participation. Although existing research generally finds a modestly positive relationship between social media use and offline and online participation, the majority of contributions rely on cross-sectional data, so the causal impact of social media use remains unclear. The present study examines how Facebook use influences reported political participation using an experiment. We recruited young Greek participants without a Facebook account and randomly assigned a subset to create and maintain a Facebook account for a year. In this paper we examine the effect of having a Facebook account on diverse modes of online and offline participation after six months. We find that maintaining a Facebook account had clearly negative consequences on reports of offline and online forms of political and civic participation.
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1
Does Facebook Increase Political Participation?
Evidence from a Field Experiment
Yannis Theocharis1
Mannheim Centre for European Social Research
Will Lowe2
Princeton University
This is the accepted version of the manuscript published by Taylor & Francis in Information,
Communication & Society on 17 December. The published manuscript is available online and can
be downloaded at http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1369118X.2015.1119871
Abstract
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1 yannis.theocharis@uni-mannheim.de
2 wlowe@princeton.edu
2
Introduction!
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References!
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C%(*#%*('q-*0',%.'b2+$($/,+'b,#($/$4,($2%;'Communication(Research0'UKH]Oh]YSk]MJ;'
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!*++$'P,#4$%$0'F;',%.'W**(*#0'X;'HSRRMO;'What(Americans(Know(About(Politics(and(Why(it(
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'
'
Acknowledgment: The authors would like to thank the participants of the "Social Media and
Political Participation" panel of the 2014 EPSA General Conference, as well as the participants
of the "Experimental Research" panel of the 110th APSA Annual Meeting for commenting on
earlier versions of this paper. Yannis Theocharis would especially like to thank Jan W. van Deth
for his advice, ideas about the study’s design and his support, as well as to acknowledge the
financial contribution of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the Mannheim Centre for
European Social Research.
Yannis Theocharis is Research Fellow at the Mannheim Centre for European Social Research
(MZES), University of Mannheim. His research interests are in political behaviour, new media,
social networks, and social capital.
Will Lowe is Senior Research Specialist in the Department of Politics at Princeton University.
He is a political methodologist focusing on quantitative political text analysis.
28
Table 1: Models of offline participation modes. For each mode, model 0 is equivalent to a t-test of
difference of means, model 1 is a linear regression, and model 2 is the ATE from a matching analysis
using propensity scores.
29
Table 2: Models for offline and online modes. For each mode, model 0 is equivalent to a t-test of
difference of means, model 1 is a linear regression, and model 2 is the ATE from a matching analysis
using propensity scores. Standard errors are in parentheses.
30
Table 3: Models for all measures combined. For each mode, model 0 is equivalent to a t-test of difference
of means, model 1 is a linear regression, and model 2 is the ATE from a matching analysis using
propensity scores. Standard errors are in parentheses.
31
Table 4: Correlation table of modes with attributes of the treated group.
32
Figure 1: Estimated treatment effects by dependent variable for regression and matching analyses.
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La Declaración Universal de Derechos Humanos reconoce la participación social como un derecho humano esencial de toda persona, y que una sociedad puede considerarse democrática cuando todos sus ciudadanos y ciudadanas participan. Este artículo explora y documenta el uso de Twitter en la llamada a la participación ciudadana por parte de las cuatro principales instituciones y figuras gubernamentales de Cuba y España, en un período que abarca la cotidianidad antes de la pandemia por COVID-19 y los primeros meses en que la enfermedad golpeó la vida de ambos países. La metodología consiste en un análisis de contenido mixto enmarcado en un estudio de caso que permitirá comparar cómo ha sido el comportamiento de las cuentas @sanchezcastejon, @desdelamoncloa, @DiazCanelB y @PresidenciaCuba en Twitter para llamar a la participación y a la responsabilidad social individual. Los resultados señalan que estamos en presencia de unos actores gubernamentales conscientes de la importancia de la comunicación en redes para llegar a la ciudadanía, si bien esta parece ser la única coincidencia entre ambos países. Las diferencias quedan patentes en las temáticas de las llamadas a la participación entre las cuentas cubanas y españolas, así como los recursos complementarios de los tuits, o las ocasiones en las que se apela a la acción a la ciudadanía.
... A related line of research that anticipates empirical support for a weaker association between PE-OnPP compared to PE-OffPP has focused on the degree to which online political activities described as "clicktivism" or "slacktivism" may constitute token displays of political support (Chou et al., 2020;Kristofferson et al., 2014). Both normative and empirical studies have discussed concerns that this type of activity both requires little effort and has minimal impact (Christensen, 2011;Freelon et al., 2020;Halupka, 2014;Karpf, 2012), and may even be primarily focused on entertainment (Theocharis & Lowe, 2016;Theocharis & Quintelier, 2016). An even more concerning possibility discussed in the scholarly literature and public discourse is that online participation may serve as a channel to express frustration with no expectation of political change, and thus can potentially demobilize citizens who would otherwise have been politically engaged (Anduiza et al., 2012;Gladwell, 2010). ...
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[In press; article accepted on May 20, 2022] The rapid rise of digital media use for political participation has coincided with an increase in concerns about citizens' sense of their capacity to impact political processes. These dual trends raise the important question of how people's online political participation is connected to perceptions of their own capacity to participate in and influence politics. The current study overcomes the limitation of scarce high-quality cross-national and overtime data on these topics by conducting a meta-analysis of all extant studies that analyze how political efficacy relates to both online and offline political participation using data sources in which all variables were measured simultaneously. We identified and coded 48 relevant studies (with 184 effects) representing 51,860 respondents from 28 countries based on surveys conducted between 2000 and 2016. We conducted a multilevel random effects meta-analysis to test the main hypothesis of whether political efficacy has a weaker relationship with online political participation than offline political participation. The findings show positive relationships between efficacy and both forms of participation, with no distinction in the magnitude of the two associations. In addition, we tested hypotheses about the expected variation across time and democratic contexts, and the results suggest contextual variation for offline participation but cross-national stability for online participation. The findings provide the most comprehensive evidence to date that online participation is as highly associated with political efficacy as offline participation, and that the strength of this association for online political participation is stable over time and across diverse country contexts.