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Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw. 2011 Mar;14(3):107-14. doi: 10.1089/cyber.2009.0226. Epub 2010 Jul 22.

It's complicated: Facebook users' political participation in the 2008 election.

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  • 1Department of Telecommunication, Information Studies, and Media, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48824, USA.


In the 2008 U.S. presidential election, social network sites such as Facebook allowed users to share their political beliefs, support specific candidates, and interact with others on political issues. But do political activities on Facebook affect political participation among young voters, a group traditionally perceived as apathetic in regard to civic engagement? Or do these activities represent another example of feel-good participation that has little real-world impact, a concept often referred to as "slacktivism"? Results from a survey of undergraduate students (Nā€‰=ā€‰683) at a large public university in the Midwestern United States conducted in the month prior to the election found that students tend to engage in lightweight political participation both on Facebook and in other venues. Furthermore, two OLS regressions found that political activity on Facebook (e.g., posting a politically oriented status update, becoming a "fan" of a candidate) is a significant predictor of other forms of political participation (e.g., volunteering for an organizing, signing a paper or online petition), and that a number of factors--including intensity of Facebook use and the political activity users see their friends performing on the site--predict political activity on Facebook. Students' perceptions regarding the appropriateness of political activity on Facebook, as well as the specific kinds of political activities they engaged in and witnessed within the site, were also explored.

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