Social media: a solution to declining youth engagement in politics?
New Zealand is no exception to the decline in political participation, particularly among youth, observed in nearly every developed democracy around the world. Attempts have been made to use social media to increase youth political engagement, so far with mixed results. This study, conducted in Dunedin, New Zealand, analyses how young people use social media and asks whether social media can be a solution to declining political participation amongst youth. A combination of quantitative and qualitative data is used in this mixed methods approach, with the findings confirming many of the themes emerging from recent studies that have moved beyond the initial hypothetical excitement about social media as a tool to increase political engagement. Overall, this study reveals that Dunedin youth see social media as a social rather than political tool. Therefore, social media is unlikely to make a difference to young people who are not already politically interested. Moreover, traditional media available online is the dominant source of political news for young people in this study. This suggests that we need to draw our attention to the use of social media by politicians and political parties, and how they can stimulate political interest in young people through their use of social media. Because the supply of political information (communication) influences demand (interest and knowledge about politics), effective communication with young people is critical to increasing youth engagement. These ‘supply-side factors’ have yet to receive adequate attention.
Advisor: Hayward, Janine; Rudd, Chris
Degree Name: Master of Arts
Degree Discipline: Politics
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Internet; social media; youth; engagement; politics
Research Type: Thesis