Opt In or Tune Out: Email Mobilization and Political Participation

Opt In or Tune Out: Email Mobilization and Political Participation

Brian S. Krueger (University of Rhode Island, USA)
Copyright: © 2010 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/jep.2010100104
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An concern for students of political mobilization has been whether political mobilization efforts reinforce or expand current patterns of political participation. Despite some promise, an emerging body of research suggests that email mobilization techniques generally will reinforce existing participatory patterns. Email mobilization campaigns rely heavily on individuals to first submit their email addresses for future contact. Because signing up for future political email is an act of political participation, mobilization resulting from these solicited contacts would serve to reinforce the engagement of those already willing to participate. Yet, many individuals receive unsolicited political email, which holds the most potential to activate the inactive. Unfortunately, despite speculation about the mobilizing potential of these unsolicited email contacts, political scientists know little about whether unsolicited political messages induce engagement. Using data from a unique probability sample survey of U.S. Internet users, the author examines whether unsolicited political email independently induces individuals to participate in politics.
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Literature Review: Passive And Deliberate Internet Mobilization

Beyond citizen self assessments, scholars have shown the internet, variously conceived and measured, to be an effective political mobilization medium. In an important early study, Tolbert and McNeal (2003) demonstrate that accessing the internet and consuming online news increases the odds of voting. Several studies show that the use of candidate or political interest group websites increases political interest (Lupia & Philpot, 2005), increases perceptions that the web induces political engagement (Lusoli & Ward, 2006), and increases actual levels of political participation (Vissers et al., 2008; Maheo et al., 2008). A recent meta-analysis confirms these findings; an analysis of 38 studies finds a positive relationship between internet use and offline political engagement (Boulianne, 2009).

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