Moving slowly up the ladder of political engagement: a ‘spill-over’ model of internet participation

Marta Cantijoch, David Cutts, Rachel Gibson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

39 Citations (SciVal)


This article:

Confirms that e-participation is multi-dimensional with prior modes of participation emerging online.

Shows that these online activities have mobilising effects and that this relationship appears to work largely in a step-wise or ‘spill-over’ manner.

Demonstrates that accessing online news and information acts as a ‘gateway’ or first step into participation.

Argues that the more active modes of online participation do not appear to exert any mobilising effects on other types of post-election engagement.

Shows that the dynamics of Internet participation are more complex than the ‘one size fits all’ approach that dominates the current literature.

In this study we test whether a range of online political activities undertaken during the campaign affect the propensity to engage in non-electoral types of online and offline political engagement subsequently. We develop three hypotheses accounting for this linkage based on a ‘spill-over’ logic about (1) the effort required for the action; (2) the type of activity undertaken (formal versus informal); and (3) the medium on which the action occurs (online or offline). We test our hypotheses with a pre/post-election panel dataset from the UK 2010 General Election. The results show that after controlling for prior political engagement, online information seeking during the campaign has a significant and positive effect on further engagement in ‘softer’ discussion modes of participation. The findings are seen to confirm that Internet-based political mobilisation works in a ‘step-wise’ manner whereby lower intensity activities spill-over to move individuals a little further up the participation ladder.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-48
Number of pages23
JournalBritish Journal of Politics and International Relations
Issue number1
Early online date1 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016


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