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Social media for civic participation

Health Factors: Family & Social Support
Decision Makers: Educators Local Government Nonprofit Leaders
Evidence Rating: Some Evidence
Population Reach: 50-99% of WI's population
Impact on Disparities: No impact on disparities likely

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Social media sites provide internet-based tools that individuals and groups can use to receive news, communicate or share information, collaborate on ideas, mobilize networks, and make collective decisions.

Expected Beneficial Outcomes

Increased civic participation
Increased social capital

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is some evidence that social media use increases civic participation (Bond 2012, Effing 2011, CTSA-2011, Lee 2012, Picazo-Vela 2012) and personalized social media messages increase individual political expression (e.g., voting) and voter turnout (Bond 2012).

Online interaction between individuals who have a face-to-face relationship appears to lead to greater increases in civic participation than interactions between individuals without strong offline relationships (Bond 2012). Engaging with others via social media can encourage young people to become engaged citizens (Culver 2012).

Individuals who use social media sites as a news source may increase levels of social capital as well as online and offline political participation (Gil de Zuniga 2012). Participation in political groups on social media sites has also been associated with increased political participation offline (Conroy 2012, Vesnic-Alujevic 2012).


United States

In 2015, 61% of millennials (aged 18-33) reported receiving news about politics and government from Facebook (Pew-Mitchell 2015). Social media tools, such as Facebook, are available on the internet anywhere in the country. Examples of tools focused on civic engagement and participation include the Wisconsin-focused political blog, WisOpinion (WisOpinion-Blog), and the Missouri political blog, PoliticMo (Yokley-PoliticMo).

Implementation Resources

MRSC-Citizen participation - Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington (MRSC). Communication and citizen participation techniques. Accessed on March 14, 2016

Citations - Evidence

Bond 2012 - Bond RM, Fariss CJ, Jones JJ, et al. A 61-million-person experiment in social influence and political mobilization. Nature. 2012;489(7415):295-298. Accessed on March 1, 2016
Conroy 2012* - Conroy M, Feezell JT, Guerrero M. Facebook and political engagement: A study of online political group membership and offline political engagement. Computers in Human Behavior. 2012;28(5):1535–46. Accessed on December 14, 2015
CTSA-2011 - Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA). Principles of community engagement. Bethesda: National Institutes of Health (NIH); 2011. Accessed on December 14, 2015
Culver 2012 - Culver SH, Jacobson T. Media literacy and its use as a method to encourage civic engagement. Comunicar: Scientific Journal of Media Education. 2012;20(39):73–80. Accessed on December 8, 2015
Effing 2011 - Effing R, Hillegersberg J van, Huibers T. Social media and political participation: Are Facebook, Twitter and YouTube democratizing our political systems? In: Tambouris E, Macintosh A, de Bruijn H, eds. Electronic Participation. Springer; 2011:25-35. Accessed on January 12, 2016
Gil de Zuniga 2012* - Gil de Zúñiga H, Jung N, Valenzuela S. Social media use for news and individuals' social capital, civic engagement and political participation. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. 2012;17(3):319-336. Accessed on March 1, 2016
Lee 2012* - Lee G, Kwak YH. An open government maturity model for social media-based public engagement. Government Information Quarterly. 2012;29(4):492–503. Accessed on February 24, 2016
Picazo-Vela 2012* - Picazo-Vela S, Gutiérrez-Martínez I, Luna-Reyes LF. Understanding risks, benefits, and strategic alternatives of social media applications in the public sector. Government Information Quarterly. 2012;29(4):504–11. Accessed on May 18, 2016
Vesnic-Alujevic 2012* - Vesnic-Alujevic L. Political participation and web 2.0 in Europe: A case study of Facebook. Public Relations Review. 2012;38(3):466–70. Accessed on November 20, 2015

Citations - Implementation

Pew-Mitchell 2015 - Mitchell A, Gottfried J, Matsa KE. Millennials and political news: Social media - the local TV for the next generation? Washington, DC: Pew Research Center; 2015. Accessed on March 1, 2016
WisOpinion-Blog - WisOpinion. Political blog index. Accessed on November 17, 2015
Yokley-PoliticMo - Yokley E. PoliticMo: Missouri news, politics, opinions. Accessed on March 1, 2016

Page Last Updated

June 10, 2015

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