Social structure and citizenship: Examining the impacts of social setting, network heterogeneity, and informational variables on political participation

Dietram A. Scheufele*, Matthew C. Nisbet, Dominique Brossard, Erik C. Nisbet

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

210 Scopus citations

Abstract

In this study, we develop a model of the interplay between sociostructural determinants of an individual's discussion behavior, such as the setting of primary discussion networks (work, church, and volunteer groups) and the nature of discussion (i.e., level of exposure to non-like-minded ideas), and individual-level outcomes, such as hard news media use, political knowledge, and participation in political processes. In doing so, we synthesize many of the different and sometimes competing models that political communication scholars have used to examine the link between more macroscopic sociological variables and the individual-level behaviors that political scientists often focus on. Data to test our theoretical model come from a national telephone survey conducted in October and November 2002. Our analysis showed that the social setting in which citizens discuss politics is an important antecedent of political participation. Discussion networks as part of volunteer groups, for example, indeed serve as important networks of recruitment. In other words, discussing politics frequently in this setting is positively and directly linked to political activity. The impact of conversational networks in church and work settings on participation, however, is only indirect. In fact, our data show that the impact of church and work networks on political participation is to a significant degree mediated by the different viewpoints that individuals are exposed to when they discuss politics in these settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)315-338
Number of pages24
JournalPolitical Communication
Volume21
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2004
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Discussion networks
  • Network heterogeneity
  • Political participation
  • Political talk
  • Social structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science

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