Abstract - The Information Society 23(1)

Civil Society and Cyber Society: The Role of the Internet in Community Associations and Democratic Politics

Michael J. Jensen, James N. Danziger and Alladi Venkatesh

A healthy civil society has long been held as vital to a healthy democracy and there is interest in whether the Internet affects this linkage. This paper explores the relationships between offline and online modes of associational life and also analyzes offline and online interactions with local governments in the US context. Based on our empirical analyses of 1,203 respondents, we show that online participation is not simply an extension of offline participation, but can be distinguished in important ways. First, we find that political and community-oriented engagements cluster separately from more private-regarding engagements. Second, participants of online democratic engagement are not characterized by the SES markers associated with offline democratic engagement who are older, have higher incomes, and have lived in the community longer. Finally, we find significant links between democratic engagement with the political system and involvement with political associations (but not social and community-oriented associations).


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