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Political participation has been an essential part of life in the United States for hundreds of years. In the last 15 years, the Internet gained in popularity and brought upon a new age of political participation. Although traditional ways of participation still exist, the impact of internet participation cannot be understated.
Forms and their Differences
Political participation is a broad term, but it can be defined as different forms of expression of political opinions by the citizens of a country. It could be represented in a wide variety of ways: voting, contacting public officials, protesting, doing political party work, organizing or participating in charity events, setting up signs on the front lawn during elections, being a part of an interest group, promoting political ideas on social media, blogging, signing petitions, as well as many other forms.
One of the more traditional and almost ubiquitous forms of political participation is yard signs. They are usually represented by a simple wooden sign with the name of the candidate, their slogan, and perhaps a promotional picture. Before the advent of the internet, they were one of the main ways of expressing your political opinion without leaving your house. While the modern perception of such signs is that they are bought by political parties to use as advertisements, it is not quite the case. A study suggests that they are still created by individuals and social networks of people (Makse and Sokhey 22). Some of the other traditional ways of participation have not changed much either. Although new technologies of voting are proposed, it still relies on paper and human counting. Jury duty is still performed in the same way it was before the invention of the internet. Protests and marches are also a common occurrence.
On the other hand, is online political participation. The Internet provides a way to instantly communicate with people over vast distances. Therefore, it is slowly becoming the main way to express and promote political opinions. The Internet has proven to be a successful fundraising system for campaign donations, a more convenient way of contacting public officials (Vissers and Stolle 938), and a source of political digital media (Dimitrova et al. 95). One of the differences between online and offline participation lies in the removal of the gender divide in participants.
There is virtually no distinction in the likeliness of participation of both sexes in online political activities (Oser et al. 99). Another lies in the interactivity of these actions. You can connect with the politician online in a much more immediate and direct way (Dimitrova et al. 97). A lot of politicians are publicly available online through such networks as Facebook and Twitter. Many of them are ready to answer questions addressed to them directly, as well as use it to promote their political ideas. Unfortunately, the internet has not proven to be a great force in providing political information. Studies show that people often receive only a fraction of available political knowledge online but still tend to involve themselves actively in political participation (Dimitrova et al. 100).
Political participation in the modern age is as popular as ever. Both traditional and new ways of interaction with politics can be seen on a daily basis, but digital interaction is gaining more popularity with each year. While it is still flawed, it could be seen as a necessary measure in today’s world of instant and continuous information.
Dimitrova, Daniela V. et al. “The Effects of Digital Media on Political Knowledge and Participation in Election Campaigns”. Communication Research, vol 41, no. 1, 2014, pp. 95-118. Web.
Makse, Todd and Anand E. Sokhey. “The Displaying of Yard Signs as a Form of Political Participation”. Political Behavior, vol 36, no. 1, 2013, pp. 189-213. Springer Nature, Web.
Oser, Jennifer et al. “Is Online Participation Distinct From Offline Participation? A Latent Class Analysis of Participation Types and Their Stratification”. Political Research Quarterly, vol 66, no. 1, 2013, pp. 91-101. Web.
Vissers, Sara and Dietlind Stolle. “The Internet and New Modes of Political Participation: Online Versus Offline Participation”. Information, Communication & Society, vol 17, no. 8, 2013, pp. 937-955. Web.