News Media Usage, Political Interest and Political Participation

University essay from Göteborgs universitet/Institutionen för journalistik, medier och kommunikation

Abstract: The discussion in this thesis focus on the relationship between news media usage and political participation. During the last several decades, many researchers have been worried about the decline of political participation, however, more and more opinions believe that political participation has not declined, but just transformed from traditional forms to new forms. Although there are facts that participation rates for traditional forms of political participation like voting and being party members are dropping, the emergence and application of the internet have also brought many new forms of political participation like online protests and expressing political views online. These new forms of political activities should also be included in the scope of political participation. Under the magnificent transition of technology, media, especially the internet has attracted attention from many researchers. Abundant research results show that the use of internet is generally beneficial for promoting political participation. Young citizens are more intensive internet users and joining more non-institutionalized forms of political participation. Although more and more researchers are investigating the relationship between internet usage and political participation, there is still a gap in comparing the effects of different media on different forms of political participation. As a mature democratic country, Australia is one of the few places requiring compulsory voting and having relatively stable voting rates. Thus, it is interesting to think about the question: does media, especially internet usage have different effects on various political participation in Australia than that in other democratic countries? Besides, in contemporary society, people use various devices with internet to acquire news and information, and research assume that using media for news and political information is good to increase political knowledge learning and political interest, and in further step to motivate people for political engagement. Then could news media usage for political participation indeed enhance political participation in the background of Australia? At last, political interest is also being assumed to have a mediation effect on the relationship between news media usage and political participation. Then does it also work with that mediation effect in Australia? Based on the questions above, this thesis will focus on the effects of different forms of news media usage on different forms of political participation in Australia, and further study the role of political interest in the relationship between news media usage and political participation.The thesis conducts multiple regression analyses and mediation analyses to investigate the proposed research questions. The research could be split into the following aspects to examine:(a) the age differences in news media usage and political participation; (b) the effects of using different media for political news on different forms of political participation; and (c) the mediation effect of the political interest between different media for political news usage on different forms of political participation. According to relevant theories, the political participation forms are separated into two major categories: institutionalized and non-institutionalized forms of political participation. The analyses utilize on two data sets: ISSP Citizenship 2004 and 2014. A quantitative method has been developed to perform the analyses. With the multiple regression analyses and mediation analyses, a deeper understanding of the relationship between news media usage and political participation could be found.The findings show several implications: 1) in Australia, both institutionalized and non-institutionalized forms of political participation have increased over time, but the non-institutionalized forms of political participation increased even more. 2) Young citizens are more frequently using the internet to acquire political news than older citizens, and they also prefer to engage in non-institutionalized forms of political participation. On the contrary, old citizens are more likely to use traditional mass media for political news than younger citizens, and they engaged in more institutionalized forms of political participation. 3) The results of multiple regression analyses indicate that using traditional mass media and the internet for political news have positive effects on both institutionalized and non-institutionalized forms of political participation. In addition, the study finds that using the internet for political news is a stronger predictor of non-institutionalized forms of political participation compared to the institutionalized forms of political participation. A similar pattern is also found in the effect of using traditional mass media for political news on political participation. 4) Moreover, the study finds that using media for political news increases citizens' political interest, and political interest mediates the relationship between different news media usage and political participation of both institutionalized and non-institutionalized forms.The results of this study complement and contribute to the complex picture of political participation. By comparing the media effects on political participation over time, an interesting finding is that the effects of traditional mass media usage for political news are relatively weak but quite stable for both institutionalized and non-institutionalized forms of political participation, while using the internet for political news has stronger effects on both of the two forms of political participation. However, it is still worth bearing in mind that even though the internet has penetrated in people's daily life and affected individuals' political behavior, but traditional media has not been replaced by the internet. Both traditional media and the internet are positively associated with citizen's political participation. In general, the wide-spread application of the internet yields more influence on political participation. Given younger citizens are intensive internet users and use the internet to obtain political news and engage in public affairs more often, the society and politicians should think about how to use digital tools to inspire, empower, and motivate young people to engage in more political activities. This is the more meaningful significance and indication of the research.

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