Exploring the Contingent Effects of Political Efficacy and Partisan Strength on the Relationship Between Online News Use and Democratic Engagement

Michael Chan


Since the 2008 United States presidential election, more than half of all adults have been using the Internet to stay informed about politics. Two perspectives have been advanced to explain the impact of online news use on democratic engagement: The “instrumental” view asserts that online news use has a direct effect on political and civic participation, and the “psychological” view asserts that the effects of online news use are contingent on individuals’ preexisting psychological dispositions. Both perspectives were examined using national survey data from the 2008 and 2012 American National Election Studies Time Series survey (ANES) and the 2008 National Annenberg Election Survey (NAES). The results from the three surveys provide support for both direct and contingent effects of online news use on democratic engagement.


political participation; civic engagement; Internet use; political efficacy; partisan strength

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