Political Behavior

, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 31–67 | Cite as

The Importance of Political Context for Understanding Civic Engagement: A Longitudinal Analysis

  • Alina Oxendine
  • John L. Sullivan
  • Eugene Borgida
  • Eric Riedel
  • Melinda Jackson
  • Jessica Dial
Original Paper


We contend that political context is important to consider when analyzing social capital and that context has an important but neglected impact on understanding the consequences of civic activity. Our focus is on the influence of rural, local leadership in two Minnesota communities and policies that these elites have developed to bring Internet connectivity to their citizens. One city developed a community electronic network and the other opted for an individualistic, entrepreneurial approach to information technology. Using a quasi-experimental research design and four-wave panel data, we find that elite policy approaches interact with civic activity to predict technology use among citizens, even long after the policies’ initial implementation. In the city with a community network, residents who are integrated into civic life are able to harness these political resources to become more technologically sophisticated.


Civic engagement Social capital Technology Electronic network 



The authors would like to thank Greg Belshe, Libby Dresel, Amy Gangl, Monica Schneider and Marc Wagoner for their research assistance. We would also like to thank Jamie Druckman and Chris Federico for helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper. In addition, we extend our thanks to Frank Allen, Larry Buboltz, Ben Hawkins, Sandy Layman, Milda Hedblom, and the communities of Grand Rapids and Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, for their cooperation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alina Oxendine
    • 1
  • John L. Sullivan
    • 2
  • Eugene Borgida
    • 2
  • Eric Riedel
    • 3
  • Melinda Jackson
    • 4
  • Jessica Dial
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceHamline UniversitySt. PaulUSA
  2. 2.University of MinnesotaTwin CitiesUSA
  3. 3.Walden UniversityMinneapolisUSA
  4. 4.San Jose State UniversitySan JoseUSA

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