While more is probably known about the causes of political participation than any other political behavior, the research program suffers in that it generally assumes citizens operate within an unproblematic surveillance context. This chapter argues that the growing use of the Internet for political participation and the government’s expanded electronic surveillance capacities make this assumption increasingly dubious. Drawing on Michel Foucault’s insights concerning surveillance and resistance, I develop empirical hypotheses related to surveillance and Internet political participation. Testing these hypotheses using data derived from a unique probability sample survey of U.S. Internet users, surveillance is shown to influence online political activity. Those who oppose the current administration, and who perceive the government monitors their Internet behavior, participate in politics online at the highest rates. Next, I test whether perceptions of online surveillance lead to a similar higher probability of conventional offline political activity. The results suggest that for those opposed to the regime’s policies, online surveillance increases the likelihood of engagement in offline political participation.
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Charles N. Davis
Lauren Teffeau, Megan Mustafoff, Leigh Estabrook
Brian S. Krueger