Citizen Politics: Are the New Media Reshaping Political Engagement location:Barcelona, Spain date:28-30 May 2009
In recent years, various voluntary associations and political organizations have increasingly relied on internet-based mobilization campaigns, replacing traditional forms of face-to-face recruitment and mobilization. With this shift, many researchers have claimed that the use of the internet might lead to more effective political mobilization of citizens. However, the question arises whether Internet mobilization encourages participation in both the online and off-line worlds, or whether it simply intensifies toolspecific participation online. In this paper we test whether Internet-based mobilization tools are potentially more effective than face-to-face tools for different modes of political participation. More specifically, the question is whether Internet mobilization mainly stimulates online participation, while face to face mobilization mostly encourages offline participation; or whether different mobilization strategies have a broader spill-over effect. To examine the impact of different mobilization strategies on online and offline political behaviors, we employ an experimental design. The experiment used a mobilization campaign to stimulate environmental participation and consciousness among young students and participants of lower socio-economic backgrounds in Belgium.
Our results suggest that face-to-face mobilization fosters offline participation, while online mobilization significantly stimulates internet participation. Cross-over effects (from online mobilization to offline participation or vice versa were not significant). In other words, mobilization is tool-specific. However, the overall mobilization effects proved only to be significant for the participants with a low socio-economic status. This could imply that once this group is reached by mobilization efforts, the effects will be stronger than those among a sample that is already saturated with political information.