Moving Slowly up the Ladder of Political Engagement: A ‘Spill-over’ Model of Internet Participation

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In this study we test whether a range of online political activities undertaken during the campaign affect the propensity to engage in non-electoral types of online and offline political engagement subsequently. We develop three hypotheses accounting for this linkage based on a ‘spill-over’ logic about (1) the effort required for the action; (2) the type of activity undertaken (formal versus informal); and (3) the medium on which the action occurs (online or offline). We test our hypotheses with a pre/post-election panel dataset from the UK 2010 General Election. The results show that after controlling for prior political engagement, online information seeking during the campaign has a significant and positive effect on further engagement in ‘softer’ discussion modes of participation. The findings are seen to confirm that Internet-based political mobilisation works in a ‘step-wise’ manner whereby lower intensity activities spill-over to move individuals a little further up the participation ladder.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-48
JournalThe British Journal of Politics and International Relations
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2015


  • political participation
  • new media
  • elections
  • political communication


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