Political Efficacy on the Internet: A Media System Dependency Approach


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[ Find out more and download the full study at: bit.ly/SFnunV and www.kateto.net ] Grounded in Media System Dependency theory, this study investigates the impact of new media on political efficacy. It suggests that dependence on online resources affects people's perceptions about the democratic potential of the Internet. Using structural equation modeling, the study tests the relationship between political attitudes and the perceived utility of the Web. The analysis employs measures that take into consideration the facilitating role of communication technologies. Results indicate that online political efficacy is associated with individual views about the comprehensiveness and credibility of new media. Efficacy is also linked to the perceived ability of online tools to aid the maintenance of ideologically homogenous social networks. The intensity of Internet dependency relations is found to be predicted by the perceived comprehensiveness – but not credibility – of online news.

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  • Melton and Reynolds (2007)
  • Political Efficacy on the Internet: A Media System Dependency Approach

    1. Political Efficacy on the Internet:A Media System Dependency Approach(NCA 2012, Top Papers in Political Communication Panel)Katherine Ognyanova (Katya)USC Annenberg School of Communicationkatya@ognyanova.net, www.kateto.net
    2. Political Efficacy Definition: The feeling that individual political action does have, or can have, an impact upon the political process, that is, that it is worthwhile to perform ones civic duties (Campbell, Gurin, and Miller, 1954) Internal Efficacy: Feelings of personal competence to understand and to participate effectively in politics.Political Efficacy External Efficacy: The perceptions of the responsiveness of political bodies and actors to citizens demands.
    3. Political Efficacy and Internet UseMedia, participation, and political efficacy: • Associated with news media use • Associated with media credibility • An important predictor of political participationEfficacy and Internet use/exposure: • Theoretically predicted positive relationship • Inconsistent results: some studies find sizeable effects, others – small or no effects.
    4. Internet and Efficacy: Resolving the Ambiguity Use Internet-specific measures of political efficacy rather than generic ones (i.e. efficacy with regard to the medium) MSD approach: look at Internet dependency rather than binary use/no use or measures looking at exposure (time spent online) H1a: Internet dependency will predict Internet political efficacy. H1b: Dependency (vs. exposure) is a better predictor of efficacy.
    5. Dependency, Exposure, and Political Efficacy Political Efficacy Internet Dependency Internet Exposure
    6. Perceived utility of the medium Internet Utility Information Utility: News Scope Political Efficacy Information Utility: News Credibility Internet Dependency Social Utility: Political Ties
    7. Perceived utility of the medium Information Utility: News Scope H2a: News scope → Internet Efficacy H2b: News scope → Internet Dependency → Internet Efficacy Information Utility: Perceived Credibility H3a: Perceived Credibility→ Internet Efficacy H3b: Perceived Credibility → Internet Dependency → Internet Efficacy Social Utility: Political Homophily H4a: Political Homophily → Internet Efficacy H4b: Political Homophily → Internet Dependency → Internet Efficacy
    8. Dataset used in the analysis Digital Future Study: Americans on the Internet • Conducted April to August of 2010 • National RDD telephone sample (50 states + DC) Digital Future Survey 2010: Protocol & Participants • A total of 1926 respondents, age 12 and over • Internet users (86%) age 16 and over (n=1254)
    9. Social Importance .47 Internet Information Importance Dependency .64 ω = .75 Entertainment ImportanceInternet Efficacy & Dependency .75 Gives political power .84 Gives a say in government work Internet .84 Efficacy Helps understand politics α = .84 .61 .72 Makes public officials accessible
    10. News content is comprehensive .79 Provides local news Information Utility: .57 Online News Scope Provides national newsMeasuring Internet Information Utility .78 α = .85 Provides international news .74 .81 Puts the news in context Fair and balanced coverage .71 Trustworthy, reliable sources .75 Information Utility: Intent for news is transparent Perceived Credibility .75 α = .86 .69 Watchdog for govt, business .70 High quality of news content
    11. Social Utility: Political Similarity H4a H4b Political Efficacy OnlineInformation Utility: H2aOnline News Scope H2b H1a H1c H3aInformation Utility:Perceived Credibility H3b Internet Dependency Political Ideology H1b Education Internet Exposure (time online) Age
    12. Social Utility: Political Similarity .15 .20 Political Efficacy OnlineInformation Utility: .14Online News Scope .31 .17 .02 .20Information Utility:Perceived Credibility .01 Internet Dependency .08 Political Ideology .12 .10 .28 .03 Education .05 Internet Exposure .06 (time online) -.25 Age -.15 Model Fit: χ2 = 13.5 (p=.26 ) DF=11 RMSEA=0.01 GFI=1
    13. Direct, Indirect, and Total Effects Direct effect Direct Effect Indirect Effect Total Effect on Dependency on Efficacy on Efficacy on Efficacy Social Utility .20 ** .15 ** .03 ** .18 ** Online News Scope .31 ** .14 ** .05 ** .19 ** Perceived Credibility .01 .20 ** .00 .21 ** Political Ideology .12 ** .08 ** .02 ** .10 ** Education .03 .10 * .01 .11 ** Age -.25 ** .06 -.04 ** .02 Internet Dependency --- .17 ** --- .17 ** *p < 0.05 **p < 0.01
    14. Future Research 1 • Impact of Internet-specific political efficacy on online political engagement. 2 • More specific utility & dependency measures. • Measures based on production, not just consumption. 3 • More specific efficacy measures: split internal and external efficacy items. 4 • Longitudinal Analysis: Dependency over time. • Environmental factors: uncertainty/ambiguity. 5 • Add selective exposure to media content to the model (registered preference for political info seekers).
    15. Thank you!Contact Information:Katherine OgnyanovaE-mail: katya@ognyanova.netWebsite: www.kateto.net