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News & Politics

ISOJ 2010

Knight CenterFollow

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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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