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Online Participation in the UK: Testing a ‘Contextualised’ Model of Internet Effects

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This article offers a new test of the mobilisation thesis of Internet effects on individual political participation using data from an NOP survey of 1,972 UK adults during May 2002. The analysis differs from that of previous studies in that it significantly widens the understanding of the dependent variable—online participation—as well as introducing new Internet-specific variables as explanatory factors for this new type of participation. Using this broader ‘contextualised’ model of online political activity we find support for the idea that the Internet is expanding the numbers of the politically active, specifically in terms of reaching groups that are typically inactive or less active in conventional or offline forms of politics. In drawing these conclusions our article joins with a growing body of literature calling for the re-evaluation of the so-called normalisation thesis which argues that ultimately the Internet will lead to a further narrowing of the pool of politically active citizens by reinforcing existing levels of engagement. At a broader level we consider the findings point to the need for scholars in the area to work towards a more sophisticated theoretical and empirical modelling of participation in the online environment.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2005

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