Does Internet Use Affect Engagement? A Meta-Analysis of Research

Boulianne, Shelley
Political Communication

Scholars disagree about the impact of the Internet on civic and political engagement. Some scholars argue that Internet use will contribute to civic decline, whereas other scholars view the Internet as having a role to play in reinvigorating civic life. This article assesses the hypothesis that Internet use will contribute to declines in civic life. It also assesses whether Internet use has any significant effect on engagement. A meta-analysis approach to current research in this area is used. In total, 38 studies with 166 effects are examined. The meta-data provide strong evidence against the Internet having a negative effect on engagement. However, the meta-data do not establish that Internet use will have a substantial impact on engagement. The effects of Internet use on engagement seem to increase nonmonotonically across time, and the effects are larger when online news is used to measure Internet use, compared to other measures.