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MOBILISING YOUNG CITIZENS IN THE UK: A content analysis of youth and issue websites

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This article reviews recent thinking and practice on the issue of youth mobilization in the United Kingdom. Developing young people's sense of civic efficacy has been shown to be the key to facilitating civic engagement. However, different approaches and online mobilization strategies have been adopted by top-down government or parliament-supported projects, and by non-governmental or 'issue' organizations. To address the question of whether UK mobilization sites are making the most of the internet to facilitate youth efficacy 20 youth and issue mobilization websites were analysed looking at content, design and interactivity. The study found that most top-down youth sites, such as youth parliaments and forums, lacked appealing, relevant content and a clear purpose; their aim was to generically 'involve' young people without a set of specific reasons and benefits that would motivate young users. Youth portals were an exception to the rule as they provided users with comprehensive, accessible and relevant information and tools. NGO sites were much more empowering and strategic in their agenda and reach, with slick, comprehensive and appealing pages, although quite focused on citizens already engaged with the issues. Overall, the study finds clear signs of a move towards the politics of everyday life and the model of the citizen-consumer. Political organizations providing promotional material, participation tools and practical tips that link to young visitors' lifeworld are more likely to succeed in boosting their sense of efficacy. However, that raises important questions about the gravitas of such online activities in traditional political terms.

Keywords: e-democracy; mobilization; non-governmental organizations; participation; web content analysis; young people

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Bournemouth University, Media School, Poole, United Kingdom

Publication date: October 1, 2008

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