The Impact of the Internet on Civic and Political Participation in Local Governance: A Mulitilevel Model for Bridging Individual and Group Levels of Analysis

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Virginia Tech


Politically interested individual citizens often use information and communication technology (ICT) to facilitate and augment their civic and political participation. At the local level, ICT plays an important role for communication and information sharing in order for local groups to create awareness and draw citizens into public deliberation about local issues and concerns. This research examines the interplay of individual and local group level factors in order to better understand the relationship between civic engagement and ICT, especially the internet, by using household survey data from the town of Blacksburg, Virginia and environs in 2005 and 2006. It seeks to reconcile those different levels of analysis relating to the use and impact of the internet on civic engagement in local governance.

This study identifies the distinctive influences at both the individual citizen level and the group level by applying a multilevel statistical model (the Hierarchical Linear Model). First, this study found the effects of internal and external political efficacy and community collective efficacy as significant individual level influences on internet use for civic and political purposes. Second, group internet use—which includes new internet technologies—and group political discussion were revealed as key influences on citizens' perspectives on the helpfulness of the internet for civic and political purposes at the group level of analysis. Finally, in multilevel analysis, those recognized group level variables (group internet use and group political discussion and interests) led to positive agreement with the following statements: 1) the internet has helped me feel more connected with people like myself in the local area; 2) the internet has helped me feel more connected with a diversity of people in the local area; and 3) the internet has helped me become more involved in local issues that interest me when taking individual level variables into account.



E-democracy, E-government, Information and Communication Technologies, Hierarchical Linear Model, Local Community Group, Internet, Local Governance, Civic Engagement