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

  • Campante, Filipe

    (Harvard University)

  • Durante, Ruben

    (Sciences Po)

  • Sobbrio, Francesco

    (European University Institute, Florence)

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".

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Paper provided by Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government in its series Working Paper Series with number rwp13-014.

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Date of creation: May 2013
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Handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp13-014
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  1. Feddersen, Timothy J & Pesendorfer, Wolfgang, 1996. "The Swing Voter's Curse," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 408-24, June.
  2. Oliver Falck & Robert Gold & Stephan Heblich, 2014. "E-lections: Voting Behavior and the Internet," Bristol Economics Discussion Papers 14/642, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
  3. Campante, Filipe Robin & Hojman, Daniel Andres, 2010. "Media and Polarization," Scholarly Articles 4454154, Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
  4. Matthew Gentzkow, 2006. "Television and Voter Turnout," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 121(3), pages 931-972, 08.
  5. Matsusaka, John G, 1995. " Explaining Voter Turnout Patterns: An Information Theory," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 84(1-2), pages 91-117, July.
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  7. Ruben Durante & Brian Knight, 2009. "Partisan Control, Media Bias, and Viewer Responses: Evidence from Berlusconi's Italy," NBER Working Papers 14762, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  9. Nina Czernich, 2012. "Broadband Internet and Political Participation: Evidence for G ermany," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 65(1), pages 31-52, 02.
  10. Stefano DellaVigna & Matthew Gentzkow, 2009. "Persuasion: Empirical Evidence," NBER Working Papers 15298, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Micael Castanheira, . "Why Vote for Losers?," Working Papers 125, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
  12. Oecd, 2001. "The Development of Broadband Access in the OECD Countries," OECD Digital Economy Papers 56, OECD Publishing.
  13. George Lisa M, 2008. "The Internet and the Market for Daily Newspapers," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 8(1), pages 1-33, July.
  14. Ronny Razin, 2003. "Signaling and Election Motivations in a Voting Model with Common Values and Responsive Candidates," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 71(4), pages 1083-1119, 07.
  15. Enikolopov, Ruben & Petrova, Maria & Sonin, Konstantin, 2012. "Do Political Blogs Matter? Corruption in State-Controlled Companies, Blog Postings, and DDoS Attacks," CEPR Discussion Papers 9169, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  16. Piketty, Thomas, 2000. "Voting as Communicating," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 67(1), pages 169-91, January.
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