Political Engagement

The Civic Network: A comparative study of the use of social media for enhancing young people’s political engagement

Professor Xenos is a co-principal investigator with Ariadne Vromen of the University of Sydney and Brian Loader of the University of York. Supported by the Spencer Foundation, this comparative study is designed to critically investigate the potential of social media for influencing the participatory culture of young citizens. The widespread adoption of social media, such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter into the lives of many young people has raised significant questions about its potential influence on their political values and civic cultural norms. A central focus of this study is to assess the extent to which social media can help promote greater civic and political engagement among young people and if there is evidence that this potential may be able to help mitigate longstanding inequalities in political participation based on socio-economic status. These issues will be examined in three countries: Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The comparative dimension of the project will enable the researchers to explore questions about how differing national contexts affect relationships between social media use, youth culture, social inequality, civic motivations and political behavior. At present, surveys for this project have already been administered to nationally representative samples of 18-29 year olds in each of the three countries, and Xenos is working with the rest of the project team on overseeing a series of qualitative online focus-groups that follow-up on patterns uncovered in the preliminary analysis of the survey data. A number of reports, academic papers, and other scholarly writings on the project will be released in the coming months.