Seminar. José Manuel Robles: Political engagement and ideology of Spanish Internet users

Seminar by professor José Manuel Robles, at UOC headquarters, 3 July 2008, about digital citizenry and political engagement of Internet users.

Digital Citizenry: Political engagement and ideology of Spanish Internet users

See what are the differences between heavy Internet users and offliners in relationship with their political behaviour, interests, etc.

At a first glance:

  • Left wing Internet users are almost four times more numerous than right wing ones.
  • The mean of political though at the Internet is slightly biased towards the left in comparison with the whole of the population
  • Internet users say to be more interested than people offline in culture (2x), labour issues (1.5x) or information and communication (4x)

So, why are Internet users more likely to be left winged than right winged? Classical models that describe how/why people gather around political ideologies:

  • Cleavages theory: people gather around their preferred values and the people identified with them
  • Natural election theory: ideology depends on the ranking of the public problems that affect them
  • People gather around parties and their ideologies (i.e. political socialization): first come party identification and, then, alignment with ideologies

Methodology: the classical approach

We build a regression according to the previous models.

Regression to see whether the ideological positioning (dependent variable) depends on their profile: age, being an Internet user, age, habitat, education level. And the regression does not seem to show any evidence of relationship at a significance level.

Regression to see whether the ideological positioning (dependent variable) depends on their identification with political problems: political problems, being an Internet user. In this case, being an Internet user correlates with the political positioning (which is something we already knew), but the model is too simple to show why.

Regression to see whether the ideological positioning (dependent variable) depends on the identification with a party: age, being an Internet user, habitat, education level, voting preferences. And, again, the regression does not seem to show any evidence.

Preliminary conclusion: classical theories cannot explain why Internet users are more left winged (in Spain) than the average of the population.

The segmentation analysis

We break Internet users according to their intensity of use and their personal characteristics, from “Men, with higher education, working or students, 95.7% of them are Internet users and are left winged” to “Women, up to primary education, older than 60 y.o., just 1% of them are Internet users and are right winged”.

In this train of though, yes we find correlation between the socio-economic nature of a specific segment and their probability to be intense Internet users. If these socio-economic characteristics can be linked with political positioning, then we could find the relationship between political positioning and Internet use. For instance, age does not seem to be determinant, but education level and being a worker/student or unemployed they seem to.

My comments

Maybe classical models cannot explain the relationship between political positioning and being an Internet user, but the philosophy of the Internet (openness, hacker ethics, community building, collaboration, common benefit, etc.) and how different parties and/or ideologies are related to that philosophy.

Another aspect, to distinguish between heavy users from both wings, would be adding a question such as “from 0 to 10, state how the Internet will change society at large (0) or the economy (10)”.

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2008) “Seminar. José Manuel Robles: Political engagement and ideology of Spanish Internet users” In ICTlogy, #58, July 2008. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
Retrieved month dd, yyyy from http://ictlogy.net/review/?p=750

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