Internet Access and Political Engagement: Self-Selection or Causal Effect?
27 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 4 Jul 2014
Date Written: 2009
A growing body of cross-sectional research documents higher rates of political mobilization in citizens using the Internet. One prominent thesis holds that this association represents a causal effect; the Internet is said to represent a cost-effcient way to become politically informed and its unique features attract particularly those citizens who are less active in traditional forms of political participation. The counterargument is that there exists a self-selection effect of politically attentive citizens into Internet use: it follows from this that the Internet may affect the form but not the level of political participation. The present study seeks to advance this ongoing debate by rigorously identifying the magnitude of a causal eect of Internet access on political engagement using longitudinal data and a natural experiment.
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