Panel Abstract

Effects of Internet Use on Democracy: A Cross-Country Comparison of Internet Users and Non-Users on Political Participation

Previous studies using big-data analytics have examined the potential power of social media to change the political environment by its ability to accumulate small acts of political participation into large-scale mobilizations. With widespread ownership of social media accounts among internet users, is the Internet creating a community of citizens who are more participative in political activities?

Using the survey data from the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) 2014 Citizenship II Module, this study compares the Internet users and non-users across 34 countries on their political participation. By examining people’s use of the Internet and their sources of news related to politics, it attempts to identify internet-driven divergent effects on political participation.

Political participation can be divided into two types: conventional and nonconventional. Conventional forms of political participation usually refer to institutional channels such as voting; they provide legitimacy to the political system. Nonconventional forms of political participation usually refer to noninstitutional channels such as protests or activist participation and often challenge the legitimacy of political institutions. The type of political participation therefore has implications for political legitimacy.

Preliminary findings from the ISSP 2014 Citizenship II survey of 1,200 representative adults in the Philippines show that, compared to non-users, Internet users tend to have more experience and interest in nonconventional forms of political participation, specifically: sign a petition, boycott or buy certain products for environmental or political reasons, join demonstrations, attend rallies, express views to a politician or public servant, donate money or raise fund for a political activity, express views on media, and express political views on the internet. The differences between users and non-users are also more pronounced for Internet than for television, newspaper, and radio. On the other hand, Internet users and non-users hardly vary when it comes to conventional forms of political participation, specifically: vote in the last general elections, and registered voter at the time of the survey.