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Examining the influence of mobile applications and interpersonal discussions towards political participation

Joseph Jai-sung Yoo, Pei Zheng,Hyeri Jung, Victoria Y. Chen, Shuning Lu& Thomas J. Johnson

IntroductionMobile is ubiquitous.Using mobile device -> civic engagementBut how?Interaction & Mediation

The goal of this studyThe influence of mobile application use on political participation, from the perspective of the Differential Gains Model and the Communication Mediation Model.

Mobile Communication & Politics Political use of mobile phone technology

The low cost, easiness and portability The pattern of mobile application use for political news and information and its impact on political participation

Interpersonal CommunicationSoul of democracyOnline and offlineMobile devices: sources for the public to consume political information and engage in interpersonal communication

Differential Gains Model (Scheufele, 2002)The political effects of news media messages are contingent upon medias interaction with interpersonal communication.

Communication Mediation Model (Shah, Cho, Eveland, Kwak, 2005)Mass Communication has an influence on political engagement but such relationship is indirect: Interpersonal communication mediates the effects of news media toward political participation.

HypothesesH1: The interaction between mobile application use and online communication is positively related to H1a) online and H1b) offline participation. H2: The interaction between mobile application use and face-to-face communication is positively related to H2a) online and H2b) offline participation.

HypothesesH3: Online communication mediates the relationship between mobile application use and a) online and b) offline political participation. H4: Face-to-face communication mediates the relationship between mobile application use and a) online and b) offline political participation.

Methodology

From one week before to one week after the 2012 presidential electionN=1267Hierarchical linear regression (Differential Gains) & Path analysis (Communication Mediation)

Independent variablesAge, Gender, Race, Education, IncomeParty ties, ideology and political interestsReliance on mobile applicationsOnline & face-to-face discussionInteraction (App x discussion): Differential Gain

Figure (Communication Mediation)

Dependent variables

Results (Differential Gain)Online & offline political participations are predicted by reliance on news applications X online discussion (H1 supported).Online discussion: direct effects toward both forms of participationFace-to-Face discussion: direct effects toward offline participation but no interaction effects with mobile apps (H2 rejected).Mobile application: direct effect toward both forms of political participations

Results (Communication Mediation)The path from reliance on mobile applications toward online participation is mediated by online discussion.The path from reliance on mobile applications toward offline participation is mediated by online & face-to-face discussions.H3 fully supported, H4 partly supported

DiscussionMobile application and online discussion -> Both mediation and moderation effectsPortability, connectivity and personalization of mobile Smartphone for online political discussion -> larger network size through weak tiesMobilizing individuals in online activities

ConclusionMobile could complement face-to-face talk.Need for clearer causal relationships & panel studyNews media companies: development of mobile news applications to elicit more engagement