Political Behavior

, Volume 27, Issue 2, pp 183-216

Analyzing the representativeness of internet political participation

  • Samuel J. BestAffiliated withDepartment of Public Policy, University of Connecticut
  • , Brian S. KruegerAffiliated withDepartment of Political Science, University of Rhode Island Email author 

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Political participation researchers have developed several evaluative techniques to assess the representativeness of political participation patterns. Yet, while the Internet has become a mainstream avenue for political participation in the United States, current assessments of online participation insufficiently apply these methods. To incorporate these methods we begin by drawing upon resource theory to inform two-stage ordered-logit models of online and offline political participation. Our results suggest that the factors predicting online participation often differ from the factors that predict offline participation. Even so, we find that those from higher socioeconomic backgrounds tend to disproportionately possess these distinct online determinants. Next, we use a wide spectrum of political opinion questions to determine whether online participators’ opinions reflect or distort those of the general population. Overall, we find that online participation tends to relate moderately with liberal preferences. However, because offline participation relates to political attitudes similarly, the Internet only marginally advantages the political voice of liberals. Finally, we discuss the implications of these results.


political participation Internet public opinion political representation resource theory