Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Young adults struggle with online political participation

Date:
June 20, 2011
Source:
Penn State
Summary:
Young adults who are web savvy, but lack knowledge about federal government, may struggle to use the web for political participation, according to researchers.

Young adults who are web savvy, but lack knowledge about federal government, may struggle to use the web for political participation, according to a team of researchers.

"There's a misconception that young adults are naturally skilled at all computer techniques," said Jens Grossklags, assistant professor of information sciences and technology, Penn State. "And while they might be comfortable on some sites and social networks, that doesn't necessarily mean that young adults know how to use the Internet for political participation."

In an experiment, the researchers provided 12 university students with two scenarios that required them to send two personal comments to two different federal government agencies. For example, one scenario asked participants to tell the agency that they favored stricter prescription drug regulations. Another scenario required participants to express their opinion on health care reform. Researchers did not provide the participants with the name or acronym of the government agency they were actually targeting.

In evaluating the students' success, the researchers found that only half of them were able to search successfully for the correct web site. For the prescription drug scenario, only three participants found the Federal Drug Administration. One person found the Federal Aviation Administration in the scenario on airport safety, and one person correctly navigated to the Environmental Protection Agency in response to a scenario about environmental efforts. In the health care reform scenario, only one person found the White House website, and another participant navigated to the White House's Facebook page.

Grossklags, who worked with Lora Appel and Frank Bridges, both graduate students in communication and information, Rutgers University, said that several obstacles kept the students from reaching the correct online destination.

A general lack of knowledge of how federal government works and how it is structured limited the participants' ability to search for government websites, Grossklags told attendees this month at the 12th International Digital Government Research Conference, College Park, Md.

Grossklags said that another problem is that participants rarely changed their initial search queries to find better results. For example, in the FAA scenario, one participant started with a generic search phrase, "opinions to U.S. government," and failed to create a more specific search after the initial query failed.

Finally, federal government websites and social networks rarely showed up in the top listings of search engines. Commercial websites tended to capture those top spots in search listings, and the participants rarely searched below those top listings.

The researchers indicated that although government agencies have increased the amount of information on the Internet, the sites were not designed to promote interactivity.

Government officials seem to design websites that disseminate information, rather than collect input, Grossklags said.

"For example, there is a contact button on the White House site," Grossklags said. "But, there's no indication whether this is a way to submit your opinion on an issue, or whether it's just a place to make comments about the website."

Some students indicated that social networks may encourage political participation. As one participant in the experiment commented, "Facebook is a lot more useful, I never would have guessed to access the government through Facebook."

Grossklags said that social networks may appeal to some young adults, but officials must match the correct online tools with the correct online tasks.

"I think that some users would prefer a more effective presence of government agencies and officials on social networking sites," said Grossklags. "However, these sites were not built for this task, and other customized solutions would probably yield a more significant return."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Penn State. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Penn State. "Young adults struggle with online political participation." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 June 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110615120238.htm>.
Penn State. (2011, June 20). Young adults struggle with online political participation. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110615120238.htm
Penn State. "Young adults struggle with online political participation." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110615120238.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Science & Society News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Condemned Man's US Execution Takes Nearly Two Hours

Condemned Man's US Execution Takes Nearly Two Hours

AFP (July 24, 2014) America's death penalty debate raged Thursday after it took nearly two hours for Arizona to execute a prisoner who lost a Supreme Court battle challenging the experimental lethal drug cocktail. Duration: 00:55 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
China's Ageing Millions Look Forward to Bleak Future

China's Ageing Millions Look Forward to Bleak Future

AFP (July 24, 2014) China's elderly population is expanding so quickly that children struggle to look after them, pushing them to do something unexpected in Chinese society- move their parents into a nursing home. Duration: 02:07 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hundreds in Virginia Turn out for a Free Clinic to Manage Health

Hundreds in Virginia Turn out for a Free Clinic to Manage Health

AFP (July 24, 2014) America may be the world’s richest country, but in terms of healthcare, the World Health Organisation ranks it 37th - prompting hundreds in Virginia to turn out for a free clinic run by “Remote Area Medical”. Duration 02:40 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Boeing Ups Outlook on 52% Profit Jump

Boeing Ups Outlook on 52% Profit Jump

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 23, 2014) Commercial aircraft deliveries rose seven percent at Boeing, prompting the aerospace company to boost full-year profit guidance- though quarterly revenues missed analyst estimates. Bobbi Rebell reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins