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Social information and political participation on the internet: an experiment

  • Helen Margetts (a1), Peter John (a2), Tobias Escher (a1) and Stéphane Reissfelder (a3)

This paper tests whether the social information provided by the internet affects the decision to participate in politics. In a field experiment, subjects could choose to sign petitions and donate money to support causes. Participants were randomized into treatment groups that received varying information about how many other people had participated and a control group receiving no social information. Results show that social information has a varying effect according to the numbers provided, which is strongest when there are more than a million other participants, supporting claims about critical mass, and tipping points in political participation.

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B. Bimber (2003), Information and American democracy: Technology in the Evolution of Political Power, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

A. Lev-On R. Hardin (2007), ‘Internet-based collaboration and their political significance’, Journal of Information Technology and Politics 4(2): 527.

J. Shang R. Croson (2009), ‘A field experiment in charitable contribution: the impact of social information on the voluntary provision of public goods’, The Economic Journal 119(540): 14221439.

D. Siegel (2009), ‘Social networks and collective action’, American Journal of Political Science 53(1): 122138.

L. Skitka E. Sargis (2006), ‘The internet as psychological laboratory’, Annual Review of Psychology 57: 529555.

T. Valente (1996), ‘Social network thresholds in the diffusion of innovations’, Social Networks 18: 6989.

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European Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 1755-7739
  • EISSN: 1755-7747
  • URL: /core/journals/european-political-science-review
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