The Internet and Participation Inequality: A Multilevel Examination of 108 Countries

Saifuddin Ahmed, Jaeho Cho, Kokil Jaidka, Johannes C. Eichstaedt, Lyle H. Ungar


This study investigates the role of the Internet in civic participation inequality across 108 countries. Merging individual-level survey data from the 2016 Gallup World Poll with country-level indices, we conduct multilevel analyses to answer three broader sets of questions: (1) Does access to the Internet increase the likelihood of civic participation? (2) Does Internet access amplify or lessen socioeconomic stratification in civic participation? (3) Do press freedom and government intervention as contextual factors shape the role of the Internet in civic participation inequality? The findings suggest that Internet access increases the likelihood of civic participation while it also deepens socioeconomic stratification in participation. Cross-level interactions unveil that the intervening role of the Internet remains unaffected by press freedom, but government intervention through the promotion of ICT use can help control the growing inequality. We discuss the theoretical implications of these findings for political inequality research and the applied global significance.


civic participation, government intervention, Internet, participation gap, political inequality, press freedom

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