Highlighted Selections from:

Does the Medium Still Matter? the Influence of Gender and Political Connectedness on Contacting U.S. Public Officials Online and Offline


DOI: 10.1007/s11199-013-0280-5

Brundidge, Jennifer et al. “Does the Medium Still Matter? the Influence of Gender and Political Connectedness on Contacting U.S. Public Officials Online and Offline.” Sex Roles 69.1-2 (2013): 3–15. Web.

p.4: Of particular interest to us is Bimber’s (1999) early investigation into when the medium of political communication mattered, and for whom it mattered. He found a notable, though relatively small online gender gap—gender (male) predicted contacting public officials via email, but was unrelated to contacting public officials by traditional means (Bimber 1999). However, he also found a modestly reduced gap for those people who reported low levels of traditional forms of political connectedness (measured by Bimber as a combination of mobilization influences and political involvement, such as attending campaign meetings)—political connectedness was less predictive of contacting public officials online than it was through traditional means. Thus, he concluded that when compared with traditional means, women found the Internet a less attractive tool for contacting public officials, while the less traditionally well connected found it a more attractive tool. For these groups, the medium of political communication mattered, at least by a little. -- Highlighted mar 23, 2014

p.4: we address three central questions in the current study: First, in the contemporary U.S. context, does Internet use exacerbate, mitigate, or simply reinforce traditional gender gaps in contacting public officials (i.e., signing petitions online or offline, emailing, or writing a postal letter)? Second, do new forms of political connectedness developed via SNSs (i.e., becoming a “friend” of a politician, joining a political group, or posting a news article for “friends”) translate into the actual contacting of public officials? Finally, does political connectedness developed either through traditional means or SNSs interact with gender to promote increases or decreases in contacting public officials? -- Highlighted mar 23, 2014

p.4: Schlozman et al. (1994), for example, found a statistically significant 8-point discrepancy between men and women in frequency of contacting public officials, contrasted with a non-significant, 3-point discrepancy in voting. Rosenstone and Hansen (1993) further found that gender accounts for about 4 % of the probability that citizens will send a letter to Congress. -- Highlighted mar 23, 2014

p.5: Schlozman et al. (1994) report that income inequalities are especially central and that the “[r]edistribution of resources would diminish considerably the gap in participation” (p. 985). Yet while some gender gaps in political participation may be explained by socioeconomic status, gender socialization may be an additional explanatory variable. -- Highlighted mar 23, 2014

p.5: women are historically overrepresented in less public or vocal forms of political involvement (i.e. voting only), as demonstrated by Coffé and Bolzendahl (2010) in their study of 18 Western democracies including the United States. -- Highlighted mar 23, 2014

p.6: as it relates to gender, there are at least two possible outcomes associated with a psychological model of participation. The first outcome we refer to as the reinforcement thesis: Because women in the U.S. have been historically less politically engaged, the Internet will reinforce or mirror traditional gender gaps in participation—women will be no more or no less likely to participate because of the advent of the Internet. The second plausible outcome we refer to as the exacerbation thesis, which takes things a bit further by adding the additional hurdle of male-dominated technology (e.g., Coyle 1996; Green et al. 1993): Because women are averse to Internet related technology, the Internet will widen traditional gaps in political participation. -- Highlighted mar 23, 2014

p.11: These results suggest that in both online and offline contexts women are most likely to contact public officials through indirect means (i.e., petitions). -- Highlighted mar 23, 2014

p.12: we also find that SNS connectedness is central to many forms of contacting public officials, particularly signing petitions, both online and offline, and emailing ones representatives. What we see in these findings seems to be a blending of the offline and online worlds, such that connection in one leads to political participation in the other. -- Highlighted mar 23, 2014

p.13: Particularly striking is the third interaction between SNS connectedness and gender on writing a postal letter, calling, or contacting a public official in person (See Table 5). As can be seen in Fig. 3, SNS connectedness widens the already existing gap between men and women for this activity. Women high in SNS connectedness engage in writing a postal letter less than those low in SNS connectedness, whereas men do it even more. -- Highlighted mar 23, 2014

p.13: However, we do find some evidence for the exacerbation thesis, but not for the reasons that were initially proposed (i.e., women have an aversion to the Internet), rather it seems women are shifting their attention away from offline forms of contact onto online forms of contact, which widens offline gender gaps, while narrowing online gender gaps. -- Highlighted mar 23, 2014

p.13: As political connectedness relates to gender, we find an interesting set of interaction effects, one suggesting a reduction in online gender gaps due to SNS connectedness, while the other two suggest an exacerbation of offline gender gaps, also due to SNS connectedness. On the one hand, as we expected, women’s use of SNSs for political connectedness substantially enhances the odds that they will sign an online petitions. -- Highlighted mar 23, 2014

p.14: More surprising are the interactions we find between gender and SNS connectedness in relationship to offline signing of petitions and writing a postal letter. SNS connectedness decreases the odds women will sign paper petitions and write a postal letter, while increasing the odds for men. One possible explanation for these findings is that SNSs, while enhancing the extent to which women sign online petitions, also serve to reinforce men’s dominance in politics in offline domains. While men do not surpass women in signing offline petitions, men’s use of SNSs does narrow one of the few areas of political participation in which women traditionally surpass men. SNS connectedness furthermore exacerbates the already existing gender gap on writing postal letters. -- Highlighted mar 23, 2014

p.14: Thus, SNS connectedness seems to have complex implications for gender gaps, favoring women online, while favoring men offline. It is perhaps the case that women feel more comfortable participating online and the more connected they become to politics via SNS, the more they shift their political participation online and away from the traditional offline forms of contacting public officials. -- Highlighted mar 23, 2014

p.14: In some ways the situation for women in the U.S. appears to have improved since earlier Internet studies (Bimber 1999; Schlozman, et al. 1994), offering a productive avenue for the signing of petitions, and a less prohibitive arena to participate in more “direct” forms of contacting public officials, such as emailing, which could strengthen the extent to which women’s political concerns are voiced. However, women may also be shifting away even further from offline traditional forms of contacting public officials, which may or may not be problematic for their representation, depending on how women’s political participation continues to take shape. -- Highlighted mar 23, 2014