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Includes data based on custom-built surveys on samples representative of internet users in nine Western democracies between 2015 and 2018
Provides a nuanced understanding of the relationship between social media and political participation, and shows how social media can enhance participation to different degrees among different types of users and based on the characteristics of a country´s political institutions
Presents results in an accessible and understandable way for readers without an advanced knowledge of statistics
Much time has been spent over the past decade debating whether social media contribute to democracy. Drawing on an original study of internet users across nine Western democracies, Outside the Bubble offers an unprecedented look at the effects of social media on democratic participation.
This book argues that social media do indeed increase political participation in both online and face-to-face activities-and that they expand political equality across Western democracies. In fact, Cristian Vaccari and Augusto Valeriani find that, for the most part, social media do not constitute echo chambers or filter bubbles as most users see a mixture of political content they agree and disagree with. Various political experiences on social media have positive implications for participation and active political involvement: social media allow citizens to encounter clearly identifiable political viewpoints, facilitate accidental exposure to political news, and enable political actors and ordinary citizens to reach voters with electoral messages designed to mobilize them. Moreover, political interactions occurring on social media do not only benefit citizens who are already involved, but boost participation across the board. This is because social media offer both additional participatory incentives to the already engaged and new political opportunities for the less engaged.
By adopting a comparative approach, Vaccari and Valeriani also show that political institutions matter since some political experiences on social media are more strongly associated with participation in majoritarian systems and in party-centric systems. While social media may contribute to many societal problems, they can help address at least two important democratic ills: citizens´ apathy towards politics, and inequalities between those who choose to exercise their voice and those who remain silent.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Why Social Media Matter
Chapter 2: Political Participation in the Digital Age
Chapter 3: Of Arguments, Accidents, and Asks: How and Why Political Experiences Occur on Social Media
Chapter 4: Do Social Media Matter? Direct Effects of Agreement, Accidental Exposure, and Electoral Mobilization on Political Participation
Chapter 5: Picking Winners or Helping Losers? Social Media and Political Equality
Chapter 6: Does Context Matter? Political Experiences on Social Media in Comparative Perspective