New Media and Political Efficacy

Stephen Coleman, David E. Morrison, Michael Svennevig


Building upon findings from a series of nine nationally-representative panel surveys, focus groups were conducted within the Leeds area in order to explore ways in which a broad range of participants interact with and reflect upon structures of political power, both within their local communities and beyond. The paper considers four themes discussed by focus group participants: Firstly, the ways in which people establish confidence in their local environment and how these relate to a growing estrangement between local and political worlds; secondly, the perceived potential of the Internet for acquiring useful information and linking with like-minded others; thirdly, the disconnection between participants’ sense of local belonging and their capacity to influence the affairs of their locality through electing accountable political representatives; and fourthly, the value of the Internet as a space for symbolic display: a means of asserting solidarity in the absence of physical association. The paper concludes by discussing the theoretical implications of this research and considering the role of the media in creating ‘confidence-building devices’ that might enhance political efficacy.

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