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Effects of Online and Offline Discussion
Networks and Weak Ties on Civic Engagement
Homero Gil de Zúñ iga
Sebastián Valenzuela
School of Journalism
University of Texas at Austin
ISOJ 2010
INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON ONLINE JOURNALISM
Research Goals
 Investigate the direct relationship between two different
network settings: interpersonal vs. computer-mediated
 Explore the direct relationships between two types of
networks (strong vs. weak).
 Learn whether the effect of interpersonal and computer-
mediated networks is mediated by access to weak ties
 Test this mediating role, we explore which setting is more
predictive of civic engagement.
Brief Literature Review
 Demographics & Civic Engagement
 Social Orientations and Civic Engagement
 Media Use and Civic Engagement
 Citizen Communication Networks
 Strong Ties & Weak Ties
Hypotheses
 H1. Larger interpersonal discussion networks will be positively
related with civic participation.
 H2. Larger computer-mediated discussion networks will be
positively related with civic participation.
 H3: Weak-tie discussion networks will be positively related with civic
participation.
 H4: Weak ties will mediate the relationship between
interpersonal/computer-mediated networks and civic participation.
 H5: The relationship between computer-mediated networks and
weak ties will be stronger than the relationship between
interpersonal networks and weak ties.
Methods
 Web-based survey
National data
Sample was matched with demographic variables of the
U.S. National Census (we compared with Pew as well).
Valid cases 1,482 (17.3% response rate)
Variables/Measures
Demographics
Social Orientations
Media Consumption
Discussion Attributions
Discussion Size
Civic Participation
Measures
Demographics
Age (M = 45.79), Gender (67% Females), Education (Mdn = 2-
year college), Income (Mdn = $50,000 to $59,999), Race (84%
Whites).
Social Orientations
Strength of Partisanship (folded item, M = 3.31, SD = 1.79), Trust
Political Institutions (3 items, Cronbach’s α = .86), Life Satisfaction
(3 Items, Cronbach’s α = .83).
Media Consumption
News media use (7 items, α = .68).
Measures
Discussion Attributions
Strong Tie (inter-item correlation = .57, M = 9.75, SD = 5.17);
Weak Tie (inter-item correlation = .55, M = 5.24, SD = 4.6)
Discussion Size
Offline (M = .77, SD = .46); Online (M = 11.33, SD = 63.71)
Civic Participation
Six items (Cronbach’s α = .81, M = 18.7, SD = 11.7)
Hypotheses
 H1. Larger interpersonal discussion networks will be positively
related with civic participation.
 H2. Larger computer-mediated discussion networks will be
positively related with civic participation.
Findings
Civic Engagement
Demographics R2
= 5.3
Social Orientations ∆R2
= 5.4
Media Consumption ∆R2
= 7.1
Offline Network Size β = .178***
Online Network Size β = .198***
N = 1,159 Model Total R2
= 27.1%
Age, Gender, Education, Income,
Race.
Strength of Partisanship, Trust Political
Institutions, Life Satisfaction.
News Use
∆R2
= 9.4 (Network Size)
*p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001
Hypotheses
 H3: Weak-tie discussion networks will be positively related with civic
participation.
Findings
Civic
Engagement
Demographics R2
= 5.3
Social Orientations ∆R2
= 5.4
Media Consumption ∆R2
= 7.1
Strong Tie Discussion β = .081*
Weak Tie Discussion β = .222***
Offline Network Size β = .080**
Online Network Size β = .129***
N = 1,159; Total Model R2
= 31.5%
Age, Gender, Education, Income,
Race.
Strength of Partisanship, Trust Political
Institutions, Life Satisfaction.
News Use
∆R2
= 11.6 (Discussion Attributes)
∆R2
= 2.1 (Network Size)
*p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001
Hypotheses
 H4: Weak ties will mediate the relationship between
interpersonal/computer-mediated networks and civic participation.
Findings
χ 2
= 1.95 with p =.16 and df = 1, RMSEA = .029, SRMR = .009, CFI = .999, TLI = .992.
Strong Ties (R2
= 24.8%), Weak Ties (R2
= 26.1%), Civic engagement (R2
= 16.3%)
Hypotheses
 H5: The relationship between computer-mediated networks and
weak ties will be stronger than the relationship between
interpersonal networks and weak ties.
Findings
Weak Ties Strong Ties
Demographics R2
= 1.4 R2
= 3.9
Social Orientations ∆R2
= 3.0 ∆R2
= 2.4
Media Consumption ∆R2
= 9.9 ∆R2
= 10.6
Offline Network Size β = .245*** β = .027
Online Network Size β = .354*** β = .492***
N = 1,159
Age, Gender, Education, Income,
Race.
Strength of Partisanship, Trust Political
Institutions, Life Satisfaction.
News Use
*p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001
∆R2
= 22.9 (Weak Ties) for Total 37.3%
∆R2
= 21.5 (Strong Ties) for Total 38.4%
Findings
Weak Ties Strong Ties
Offline Network Size .245a
.027b
Online Network Size .354a
.493b
(a) Superscript denotes that their difference is statistically significant at the p < .05 level.
(b) Superscript denotes that their difference is statistically significant at the p < .01 level
Conclusions
Network size, both online and offline, is positively
related with civic engagement.
Weak-tie discussion is the strongest predictor of civic
engagement.
Weak-tie discussion largely mediates the association
between online and offline networks and civic
participation.
Online networks entail greater exposure to weak ties
than offline networks.

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Homero

  • 1. Effects of Online and Offline Discussion Networks and Weak Ties on Civic Engagement Homero Gil de Zúñ iga Sebastián Valenzuela School of Journalism University of Texas at Austin ISOJ 2010 INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON ONLINE JOURNALISM
  • 2. Research Goals  Investigate the direct relationship between two different network settings: interpersonal vs. computer-mediated  Explore the direct relationships between two types of networks (strong vs. weak).  Learn whether the effect of interpersonal and computer- mediated networks is mediated by access to weak ties  Test this mediating role, we explore which setting is more predictive of civic engagement.
  • 3. Brief Literature Review  Demographics & Civic Engagement  Social Orientations and Civic Engagement  Media Use and Civic Engagement  Citizen Communication Networks  Strong Ties & Weak Ties
  • 4. Hypotheses  H1. Larger interpersonal discussion networks will be positively related with civic participation.  H2. Larger computer-mediated discussion networks will be positively related with civic participation.  H3: Weak-tie discussion networks will be positively related with civic participation.  H4: Weak ties will mediate the relationship between interpersonal/computer-mediated networks and civic participation.  H5: The relationship between computer-mediated networks and weak ties will be stronger than the relationship between interpersonal networks and weak ties.
  • 5. Methods  Web-based survey National data Sample was matched with demographic variables of the U.S. National Census (we compared with Pew as well). Valid cases 1,482 (17.3% response rate) Variables/Measures Demographics Social Orientations Media Consumption Discussion Attributions Discussion Size Civic Participation
  • 6. Measures Demographics Age (M = 45.79), Gender (67% Females), Education (Mdn = 2- year college), Income (Mdn = $50,000 to $59,999), Race (84% Whites). Social Orientations Strength of Partisanship (folded item, M = 3.31, SD = 1.79), Trust Political Institutions (3 items, Cronbach’s α = .86), Life Satisfaction (3 Items, Cronbach’s α = .83). Media Consumption News media use (7 items, α = .68).
  • 7. Measures Discussion Attributions Strong Tie (inter-item correlation = .57, M = 9.75, SD = 5.17); Weak Tie (inter-item correlation = .55, M = 5.24, SD = 4.6) Discussion Size Offline (M = .77, SD = .46); Online (M = 11.33, SD = 63.71) Civic Participation Six items (Cronbach’s α = .81, M = 18.7, SD = 11.7)
  • 8. Hypotheses  H1. Larger interpersonal discussion networks will be positively related with civic participation.  H2. Larger computer-mediated discussion networks will be positively related with civic participation.
  • 9. Findings Civic Engagement Demographics R2 = 5.3 Social Orientations ∆R2 = 5.4 Media Consumption ∆R2 = 7.1 Offline Network Size β = .178*** Online Network Size β = .198*** N = 1,159 Model Total R2 = 27.1% Age, Gender, Education, Income, Race. Strength of Partisanship, Trust Political Institutions, Life Satisfaction. News Use ∆R2 = 9.4 (Network Size) *p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001
  • 10. Hypotheses  H3: Weak-tie discussion networks will be positively related with civic participation.
  • 11. Findings Civic Engagement Demographics R2 = 5.3 Social Orientations ∆R2 = 5.4 Media Consumption ∆R2 = 7.1 Strong Tie Discussion β = .081* Weak Tie Discussion β = .222*** Offline Network Size β = .080** Online Network Size β = .129*** N = 1,159; Total Model R2 = 31.5% Age, Gender, Education, Income, Race. Strength of Partisanship, Trust Political Institutions, Life Satisfaction. News Use ∆R2 = 11.6 (Discussion Attributes) ∆R2 = 2.1 (Network Size) *p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001
  • 12. Hypotheses  H4: Weak ties will mediate the relationship between interpersonal/computer-mediated networks and civic participation.
  • 13. Findings χ 2 = 1.95 with p =.16 and df = 1, RMSEA = .029, SRMR = .009, CFI = .999, TLI = .992. Strong Ties (R2 = 24.8%), Weak Ties (R2 = 26.1%), Civic engagement (R2 = 16.3%)
  • 14. Hypotheses  H5: The relationship between computer-mediated networks and weak ties will be stronger than the relationship between interpersonal networks and weak ties.
  • 15. Findings Weak Ties Strong Ties Demographics R2 = 1.4 R2 = 3.9 Social Orientations ∆R2 = 3.0 ∆R2 = 2.4 Media Consumption ∆R2 = 9.9 ∆R2 = 10.6 Offline Network Size β = .245*** β = .027 Online Network Size β = .354*** β = .492*** N = 1,159 Age, Gender, Education, Income, Race. Strength of Partisanship, Trust Political Institutions, Life Satisfaction. News Use *p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001 ∆R2 = 22.9 (Weak Ties) for Total 37.3% ∆R2 = 21.5 (Strong Ties) for Total 38.4%
  • 16. Findings Weak Ties Strong Ties Offline Network Size .245a .027b Online Network Size .354a .493b (a) Superscript denotes that their difference is statistically significant at the p < .05 level. (b) Superscript denotes that their difference is statistically significant at the p < .01 level
  • 17. Conclusions Network size, both online and offline, is positively related with civic engagement. Weak-tie discussion is the strongest predictor of civic engagement. Weak-tie discussion largely mediates the association between online and offline networks and civic participation. Online networks entail greater exposure to weak ties than offline networks.