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

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Civic engagement Social capital Technology Electronic network 

Notes

Acknowledgments

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.

References

  1. Alesina, A., & La Ferrara, E. (2000a). The determinants of trust. National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper 7621, http://www.nber.org/papers/w7621Google Scholar
  2. Alesina, A., & La Ferrara, E. (2000b). Participation in heterogeneous communities. Quarterly Journal of Economics, August, 847–904.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Almond, G., Dalton, R., & Powell, B. G. (1999). European politics today. New York: Longman Publishers.Google Scholar
  4. Anderson, R. H., Bikson, T. K., Law, S. A., & Mitchell, B. M. (1995). Universal access to e-mail: Feasibility and societal implications. Rand Report MR-650-MF. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation.Google Scholar
  5. Baker, K., Dalton R., & Hildebrandt, K. (1981). Germany transformed: Political culture and the new politics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Boli, J. (1991). Sweden: Is there a viable third sector? In R. Wuthnow (Ed.), Between states and markets: The voluntary sector in a comparative perspective (pp. 45–67). Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Borgida, E., Oxendine, A., Jackson, M., Riedel, E., Sullivan, J., & Gangl, A. (2002). Community electronic networks: Does civic culture affect on-line access? Journal of Social Issues, 58, 125–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brehm, J., & Rahn, W. (1997). Individual-level evidence for the causes and consequences of social capital. American Journal of Political Science, 41, 999–1023.Google Scholar
  9. Brown, R. K., & Brown, R. (2003). Faith and works: Church-based social capital resources and African American political activism. Social Forces, 82(2), 617–641.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Calabrese, A., & Borchert, M. (1996). Prospects for electronic democracy in the United States: Rethinking communications and social policy. Media, Culture, and Society, 18, 249–268.Google Scholar
  11. Coleman, J. S. (1988). Social capital in the creation of human capital. American Journal of Sociology, 94, 95–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Coleman, J. S. (1990). Foundations of social theory. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Corporation for Public Broadcasting Report (2003). Connected to the future: A report on children’s Internet use from the corporation for public broadcasting. Available at http://www.cpb.org/ed/resources/connected/Google Scholar
  14. Costa, D., & Kahn, M. (2002). Civic engagement and community heterogeneity: An economist’s perspective. Prepared for Conference of Social Connectedness and Public Activism, Harvard University, May 2002.Google Scholar
  15. Doherty, D., Donald G., & Gerber, A. (2005). Personal income and attributes toward redistribution: A study of lottery winners. Yale University unpublished manuscript, Available at http://www.yale.edu/isps/publications/field.htmlGoogle Scholar
  16. Durlauf, S., & Fafchamps, M. (June 16, 2003). Empirical studies of social capital: a critical survey.”Google Scholar
  17. Fukuyama, F. (1995). Now listen, net freaks, it’s not who you know, but who you trust. Forbes ASAP. December 4.Google Scholar
  18. Gerber, A., & Green, D. (2000). The effects of canvassing, telephone calls, and direct mail on voter turnout: A field experiment. American Political Science Review, 94(3), 653–663.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Granger, C. (1969). Investigating causal relations by econometric models and cross-spectral methods. Econometric, 37, 424–438.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Green, D., & Gerber, A. (2002) The downstream benefits of experimentation. Political Analysis, 10(4), 394–402.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hetherington, M. (1999) The effect of political trust on the presidential vote, 1968–1996. American Political Science Review, 93(2), 311–326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Jackman, R., & Miller, R. (1996). Renaissance of political culture? American Journal of Political Science, 40, 632–659.Google Scholar
  23. Kavanaugh, A., & Patterson S. (2001). The impact of community computer networks on social capital and community involvement. American Behavioral Scientist, 45, 469–509.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kling, R. (1996). Synergies and competition between life in cyberspace and face-to-face communities. Social Science Computer Review, 14, 50–54.Google Scholar
  25. Knack, S. (2002). Social capital and the quality of government: Evidence from the states. American Journal of Political Science, 46, 772–785.Google Scholar
  26. Knack, S. (2000). Social capital and the quality of government: Evidence from the states. Policy Research Working Paper 2504. Washington, DC: The World Bank Development Research Group.Google Scholar
  27. Kraut, R., Patterson, M., Lundmark, V., Kiesler, S., Mukhopadhyay, T., & Scherlis, W. (1998) Internet paradox: A social technology that reduces social involvement and psychological well-being? American Psychologist, 53, 1017–1032.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kraut, R., Kiesler, S., Boneva, B., Cummings, J., Helgeson, V., & Crawford, A. (2002). Internet paradox revisited. Journal of Social Issues, 58, 49–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kuenzi, M. (2003). Education, political socialization and social capital: The results of a five-region study in Senegal. Prepared for presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago, April 4–7.Google Scholar
  30. Kumlin, S., & Rothstein, B. (2005). Making and breaking social capital: The impact of welfare state institutions. Comparative Political Studies, 38, 339–365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Levi, M. (1996). Social and unsocial capital: A review essay of Robert Putnam’s Making Democracy Work. Politics & Society, 24, 45–55.Google Scholar
  32. Lillie, J. (2006a). Possible roles for community electronic networks and participatory development strategies in access programs for poor neighborhoods. Unpublished manuscript available online at http://www.unc.edu/∼jlillie/310.htmlGoogle Scholar
  33. Lillie, J. (2006b). The empowerment potential of Internet use. Unpublished manuscript available online at http://www.unc.edu/∼jlillie/340.htmlGoogle Scholar
  34. Menard, S. (1991). Longitudinal research. Sage University Paper Series on Quantitative Applications in the Social Sciences, 07–076. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  35. Mondak, J., & Gearing, A. (1998). Civic engagement in a post-communist state. Political Psychology, 19(3), 615–637.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Nye, J. (1997). Introduction: The decline of confidence in government. In: J. Nye Jr., P. Zelikow, & D. King (Eds.), Why People Don’t Trust Government. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Orren, G. (1997). Fall from grace: The public’s loss of faith in government. In: J. Nye Jr., P. Zelikow, & D. King (Eds.), Why People Don’t Trust Government. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Oxendine, A., Borgida, E., Sullivan, J., & Jackson, M. (2003). The importance of trust and community in developing and maintaining a community electronic network. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 58, 671–696.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Pew Internet and American Life Project Report (October 2005). Digital divisions: there are clear differences among those with broadband connections, dial-up connections, and no connections at all to the internet. Available at http://www.pewinternet.org/reportsGoogle Scholar
  40. Pew Internet and American Life Project Report (February 2004). Rural areas and the internet. Available at http://www.pewinternet.org/reportsGoogle Scholar
  41. Putnam, R. (1993). Making democracy work: Civic traditions in modern Italy. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Putnam, R. (1995). Bowling alone: America’s declining social capital. Journal of Democracy 6, 65–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Putnam, R. (2000). Bowling alone. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  44. Rahn, W., Yoon, K., Garet, M., Lipson, S., & Loflin, K. (2003). Geographies of trust: Explaining inter-community variation in general social trust using hierarchical linear modeling (HLM). Prepared for the Annual Meeting of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, Nashville, May 2003.Google Scholar
  45. Rahn, W., & Rudolf, T. (2002). A multilevel model of trust in local government. Prepared for the Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago, April.Google Scholar
  46. Rohrschneider, R. (1996). Institutional learning versus value diffusion: The evolution of democratic values among parliamentarians in Eastern and Western Germany. The Journal of Politics, 58(2), 422–446.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rohrschneider, R. (1994). Report from the laboratory: The influence of institutions on political elites and democratic values in Germany. The American Political Science Review, 88(4), 927–941.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Schneider, M., Teske, P., Marschall, M., Mintrom, M., & Roch, C. (1997). Institutional arrangements and the creation of social capital: The effects of public school choice. The American Political Science Review, 91(1), 82–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Schofer, E., & Fourcade-Gourinchas, M. (2001). The structural contexts of civic engagement: Voluntary association membership in comparative perspective. American Sociological Review, 66 (6), 806–828.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Schuler, D. (1994). Community networks: building a new participatory medium. Communications of the ACM, 37, 39–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Skocpol, T. (1996). Unraveling from above. American Prospect, 25, 20–25.Google Scholar
  52. Small. M. (2002). Culture, cohorts, and social organization theory: Understanding local participation in a Latino housing project. American Journal of Sociology, 108, 1–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Stolle, D. (1998). Bowling together, bowling alone: The development of generalized trust in voluntary associations. Political Psychology, 19, 497–526.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Sullivan, J., Borgida, E., Jackson, M., Riedel, E., Oxendine, A., & Gangl, A. (2002a). Social capital and community electronic networks. American Behavioral Scientist, 45, 868–886.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Sullivan, J., Borgida, E., Jackson, M., Riedel, E., & Oxendine, A. (2002b). A tale of two towns: Assessing the role of political resources in a community electronic network. Political Behavior, 24, 55–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Tarrow, S. (1996). Making social science word across space and time: A critical reflection on Robert Putnam’s Making Democracy Work. American Political Science Review, 90, 389–397.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Weinfurt, K. P. (2000). Repeated measures analyses: ANOVA, MANOVA, and HLM. In: G. G. Laurence, & P. R. Yarnold (Eds.), Reading and understanding more multivariate statistics (pp. 317–36). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  58. Wellman, B., Salaff, J., Dimitrova, D., Garton, L., Gulia, M., & Haythornthwaite, C. (1996). Computer networks as social networks: Collaborative work, telework, and virtual community. Annual Review of Sociology, 22, 213–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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

Personalised recommendations