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Frequent Internet users more likely to petition, protest, and use political violence in East Asia and Southeast Asia

September 23, 2016

Shin Haeng Lee’s study shows that for politically active people in East and Southeast Asia, the more they use the Internet, the more likely they are to participate in in political protests, petitions, and violence, as compared to campaign meetings and contacts with elected officials.  

 

Such people are more likely to have political discussions with others and believe they can make a difference in politics, despite the fact they are likely to be more isolated from traditional political structures and organizations.

 

Shin’s work is based on data collected through the Asian Barometer Survey, one of the largest, recurring social science surveys in the region.  The survey included 8 countries (South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam), with 1000-1500 participants in each country, over two periods, 2005-2007 and 2010-2011

 

Shin defines three categories of political participants:  inactive, traditional, and unconventional.  Inactive do not participate in politics.  Traditional attended (1) a campaign meeting or rally for national election, and/or (2) contacted an elected official or legislator sometime in the last three years.  Unconventional (3) worked with other to raise an issue or petition, (4) attended a demonstration or protest, and/or (5) used force or violence for a political cause, within the last three years. The survey asked participants about their Internet use, ranging from never to almost daily.

 

In 2005-2007, traditional participants were 34.6% and unconventional were 2.1%; the rest were inactive.  In 2010-2011, traditional participants fell to 17.6% and unconventional rose to 3.3%. 

 

The survey asks people about what political events they participate, how often and how many people they discuss politics with, their level of satisfaction with politics, how often they use the Internet, how they get the news, and about their sense of how much they can impact politics. 

 

Shin concludes that compared to traditional participants, the unconventional tend to be younger, less educated, but with a larger personal network.  They also used the Internet more, consumed less news and discussed politics more frequently.  Unconventional participants had a stronger sense that they could influence politics. 

 

Furthermore, Shin found that those who are more socially isolated and do not belong to organizations, frequent Internet use predicted their greater political participation and their feeling that they could influence politics.

 

In comparison, those who had membership in voluntary organizations, whether they were traditional or unconventional participants depended more on their socioeconomic status.

 

See the original research:

Shin Haeng Lee.  “Digital democracy in Asia: the impact of the Asian Internet on political participation.”Journal of Information Technology and Politics, 2016.

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/19331681.2016.1214095
 

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