Online and Offline Communication and Political Knowledge and Participation in Presidential Campaigns: Effects of Geographical Context
Political campaigns employ segmenting and targeting strategies to reach voters, which result in a differential distribution of campaign resources across the whole nation. This study investigates how the resulting differences in information availability influence an individual’s political learning and behaviors in relation to geographical locality. Data for this study come from three separate studies conducted during the 2004 U.S. presidential election. The results from a series of multilevel modeling analyses show that newspaper use had a greater impact on political knowledge and participation in localities with more political advertising or more candidate appearances than in localities where these were less frequent. The impact of offline political discussion did not follow the same pattern. The findings relating to Internet use were mixed. This study demonstrates the importance of geographical contexts in understanding communication effects. Also, the Internet functions to both extend and diminish unequal information availability in the offline world.