Participating Online: The Internet and its Role in Political Participatory Behaviour in the Context of the New Zealand General Election 2008
Thesis DisciplinePolitical Science
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
Recent developments in Internet technology have opened up new doors for political campaigning and related news information with video and social networking applications. These have created new spaces that the voting public can politically participate in. This study explores the extent to which such participation takes place, in order to contribute to the wider question of whether changes in the media can rejuvenate a growing apathetic electorate that has become increasingly isolated from the more traditional methods of political participation (Putnam 2000). There are now many unanswered questions regarding how this new technology will play a role in influencing voter preferences and behaviour compared to other forms of traditional mass media. The exponential growth of Internet technology and its use means that the majority of literature written on the subject becomes time-bound leaving large gaps of research and analysis that needs to be done. This thesis examined the opportunities made available for political campaigning by the Internet and how widening political knowledge can ultimately influence Internet consumers at the voting booth. The research undertaken was a combination of quantitative and qualitative analysis using participatory groups in a controlled environment. Participants consumed different forms of mass media and any significant changes in preferences and behaviour was noted. The overall hypothesis of this thesis is that the Internet does have an effect on potential voters by providing a wider and more in-depth look at politics that broadens political knowledge, leading to greater political participation.