Original Paper

Political Behavior

, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 625-644

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Virtual Civil Society: The New Frontier of Social Capital?

  • Miki Caul KittilsonAffiliated withSchool of Politics and Global Studies, Arizona State University Email author 
  • , Russell J. DaltonAffiliated withCenter for the Study of Democracy, University of California


Although many scholars agree that social interactions within traditional social groups build social capital, there is less consensus on the benefits of virtual interactions for political engagement. Our research examines how interpersonal social group activity and virtual activity contribute to two dimensions of social capital: citizen norms and political involvement. We rely on data collected in the 2005 Citizenship Involvement in Democracy survey conducted by the Center for Democracy and Civil Society at Georgetown University. This survey provides unique detail on participation in both social groups and virtual interactions. Our findings suggest that social group activity and virtual interactions both foster many of the same positive aspects of social capital.


Social capital Political participation Internet and politics