September 3, 2009 at 11:32 am #79561
From the Pew Internet & American Life Project
Title: The Internet and Civic Engagement
Just as in offline politics, the well-off and well-educated are especially likely to participate in online activities that mirror offline forms of engagement. But there are hints that social media may alter this pattern.
Political and civic involvement have long been dominated by those with high levels of income and education, leading some advocates to hope that internet-based engagement might alter this pattern. However, a new report by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project shows that the internet is not changing the fundamental socio-economic character of civic engagement in America. When it comes to online activities such as contributing money, contacting a government official or signing an online petition, the wealthy and well-educated continue to lead the way.
Still, there are hints that the new forms of civic engagement anchored in blogs and social networking sites could alter long-standing patterns. Some 19% of internet users have posted material online about political or social issues or used a social networking site for some form of civic or political engagement. And this group of activists is disproportionately young.
Some gems pulled from the 66 page report
“The internet is now part of the fabric of everyday civic life. Half of those who are involved in a political or community group communicate with other group members using digital tools such as email or group websites.”
“In part, this circumstance results from the very high levels of online engagement by young adults. Some 37% of internet users aged 18-29 use blogs or social networking sites as a venue for political or civic involvement, compared to 17% of online 30-49 year olds, 12% of 50-64 year olds and 10% of internet users over 65. It is difficult to measure socio-economic status for the youngest adults, those under 25 — many of whom are still students. This group is, in fact, the least affluent and well educated age group in the survey. When we look at age groups separately, we find by and large that the association between income and education and online engagement re-emerges—although this association is somewhat less pronounced than for other forms of online political activism.”
“There are hints that forms of civic engagement anchored in blogs and social networking sites could alter longstanding patterns that are based on socio-economic status. … Those who use blogs and social networking sites as an outlet for civic engagement are far more active in traditional realms of political and nonpolitical participation than are other Internet users. In addition, they are even more active than those who do not use the Internet at all.”
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