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The Electronic Republic? Evidence on the Impact of the Internet on Citizenship and Civic Engagement in the U.S

International Journal of Social Education Volume 21, Number 1, ISSN 0889-0293


In 1991, Lawrence Grossman wrote that "a new political system is taking shape in the United States. As we approach the twenty-first century, America is turning into an electronic republic, a democratic system that is vastly increasing the people's day-to-day influence on decisions of state." Grossman's forecast implied a sea change in the way citizens would interact with, and participate in, their representative government; a revamping of the way Americans would "do" citizenship. Thomas Johnson and Barbara Kaye echoing Grossman's forecast, reported that "Internet utopians, writing in advance of the 1996 presidential election, breathlessly predicted the 'Net would transform the democratic process by both increasing the public's access to government officials and their power over them." This article explores the literature in several areas (e.g., political science, civic education, social studies education, instructional technology) in order to summarize relevant research on the nature and degree of the Internet's impact on civic engagement and citizenship participation in the United States. In an attempt to provide a summary of the body of literature, the author first outlines what proponents describe as the potential of the Internet to impact the role of citizens, to increase citizens' access to government officials, or to increase civic engagement. Then the author turns to a review of literature on the influence of the Internet with respect to each of the following aspects: (1) voting rates and voter participation; (2) political information seeking behavior by citizens; (3) civic engagement (other than voting); (4) citizen networks, issue advocacy, and activism; and (5) the influence of electronic government (e-gov) on citizens. This article concludes with a re-examination of Grossman's prediction. (Contains 123 notes.)


VanFossen, P.J. (2006). The Electronic Republic? Evidence on the Impact of the Internet on Citizenship and Civic Engagement in the U.S. International Journal of Social Education, 21(1), 18-43. Retrieved November 18, 2019 from .

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