Fall 2011

Who Speaks? Citizen Political Voice on the Internet Commons

Kay Lehman Schlozman, Sidney Verba, and Henry E. Brady

Using an August 2008 representative survey of Americans conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, we investigate the consequences of Internet-based political activity for long-standing patterns of participatory inequality. There is little evidence of change in the extent to which political participation is stratified by socioeconomic status, even when we account for the fact that the well educated and affluent are more likely to be Internet users. However, because young adults are much more likely than their elders to be comfortable with electronic technologies and to use the Internet, the Web has ameliorated the well-known participatory deficit among those who have recently joined the electorate. Still, among Internet users, the young are not especially politically active. How these trends play out in the future depends on what happens to the current Web-savvy younger generation and the cohorts that follow as well as on the rapidly developing political capacities of the Web.

KAY LEHMAN SCHLOZMAN, a Fellow of the American Academy since 2003, is the J. Joseph Moakley Endowed Professor of Political Science at Boston College.

SIDNEY VERBA, a Fellow of the American Academy since 1968, is the Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor Emeritus and a Research Professor of Government at Harvard University.

HENRY E. BRADY, a Fellow of the American Academy since 2003, is Dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy and Class of 1941 Monroe Deutsch Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley.

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