chapter  2
22 Pages

The Great Equalizer? Patterns of Social Media Use and Youth Political Engagement in Three Advanced Democracies


From the events of the Arab Spring to the occupation of Zuccotti Park, stories of mass protests saturated with the aura of young people’s savvy use of social media platforms have produced headlines with growing regularity. It has also become conventional wisdom to attribute US President Barack Obama’s initial and later re-election victories to his campaign’s deft deployment of social media to mobilize the youth vote. In the United States and other democracies, social media activity is disproportionately concentrated among young people (Australian Communications and Media Authority 2013; Brenner 2013; Woollaston 2013). As a result, there has been an explosive growth in studies examining relationships between social media use and political engagement, sometimes with a specifi c focus on young people (e.g. Bode 2012; Conroy, Feezell, & Guerrero 2012; Gil de Zúñiga, Jung, & Valenzuela 2012; Vitak et al. 2011). These developments contribute to a growing popular understanding of social media as a potent tool for moving young people to political engagement.