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Politics 2.0: The Multifaceted Effect of Broadband Internet on Political Participation

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  • Campante, Filipe

    (Harvard University)

  • Durante, Ruben

    (Sciences Po)

  • Sobbrio, Francesco

    (European University Institute, Florence)

Abstract

We investigate the impact of the diffusion of high-speed Internet on different forms of political participation, using data from Italy. We exploit differences in the availability of ADSL broadband technology across municipalities, using the exogenous variation induced by the fact that the cost of providing ADSL-based Internet services in a given municipality depends on its relative position in the pre-existing voice telecommunications infrastructure. We first show that broadband Internet had a substantial negative effect on turnout in parliamentary elections between 1996 and 2008. However, we also find that it was positively associated with other forms of political participation, both online and offline: the emergence of local online grassroots protest movements, and turnout in national referenda (largely opposed by mainstream parties). We then show that the negative effect of Internet on turnout in parliamentary elections is essentially reversed after 2008, when the local grassroots movements coalesce into the Five-Star Movement (M5S) electoral list. Our findings are consistent with the view that: 1) the effect of Internet availability on political participation changes across different forms of engagement; 2) it also changes over time, as new political actors emerge who can take advantage of the new technology to tap into the existence of a disenchanted or demobilized contingent of voters; and 3) these new forms of mobilization eventually feed back into the mainstream electoral process, converting "exit" back into "voice".

Suggested Citation

  • Campante, Filipe & Durante, Ruben & Sobbrio, Francesco, 2013. "Politics 2.0: The Multifaceted Effect of Broadband Internet on Political Participation," Working Paper Series rwp13-014, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp13-014
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Strömberg, David, 2015. "Media Coverage and Political Accountability: Theory and Evidence," CEPR Discussion Papers 10638, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Oliver Falck & Robert Gold & Stephan Heblich, 2014. "E-lections: Voting Behavior and the Internet," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(7), pages 2238-2265, July.
    3. Julia Cage, 2014. "Media Competition, Information Provision and Political Participation," Sciences Po publications info:hdl:2441/16juu6v6rg8, Sciences Po.
    4. Gavazza, Alessandro & Nardotto, Mattia & Valletti, Tommaso, 2015. "Internet and Politics: Evidence from U.K. Local Elections and Local Government Policies," CEPR Discussion Papers 10991, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. Ruben Durante & Paolo Pinotti & Andrea Tesei, 2015. "The Political Legacy of Entertainment TV," Sciences Po publications info:hdl:2441/gjf8d7tah8a, Sciences Po.
    6. Miner, Luke, 2015. "The unintended consequences of internet diffusion: Evidence from Malaysia," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 132(C), pages 66-78.
    7. Ruben Enikolopov & Maria Petrova & Konstantin Sonin, 2018. "Social Media and Corruption," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 10(1), pages 150-174, January.
    8. Bauernschuster, Stefan & Falck, Oliver & Woessmann, Ludger, 2014. "Surfing alone? The internet and social capital: Evidence from an unforeseeable technological mistake," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 73-89.
    9. Liang Che-Yuan & Nordin Mattias, 2013. "The Internet, News Consumption, and Political Attitudes – Evidence for Sweden," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 13(2), pages 1071-1093, September.
    10. Dagaev, Dmitry & Lamberova, Natalia & Sobolev, Anton & Sonin, Konstantin, 2013. "Technological Foundations of Political Instability," CEPR Discussion Papers 9787, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    11. Antoci, Angelo & Delfino, Alexia & Paglieri, Fabio & Panebianco, Fabrizio & Sabatini, Fabio, 2016. "Civility vs. incivility in online social interactions: an evolutionary approach," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 68800, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • L82 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Entertainment; Media
    • L86 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Information and Internet Services; Computer Software

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