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The Effect of Structural Pluralism in the Community on Political Participation

The next ICA 2010 speaker is Seungahn Nah, who highlights how community structures constrain individuals' communications and participatory behaviours. We need to develop an integrated theoretical model of civic engagement at the micro-macro linkage.

The degree of specialisation and differentiation in the community has been described as community structural pluralism - indicators for this are population, education, income, and employment, for example. Additionally, communication mediates between demographic and community contexts and civic engagement. At the community level, community structural pluralism is connected to civic engagement, political discussion, and media use; at the individual level, demographic and socioeconomic characteristics connect with the individual's media use to determine levels of political discussion and civic engagement. How do the community and individual levels intersect, though?

Seungahn examined this through a survey of some 1,100 households in Kentucky, which indicates that at the individual level, TV, newspaper, and Internet use was positively related to political discussion and civic engagement (TV was least important here). Political discussion was also positively related with civic engagement. At the macro level, community structural pluralism played a significant role on political discussion and Internet use. Communities with higher structural pluralism had a higher level of Internet use, but not of political discussion. Media use has direct and indirect effects; community structure matters at the macro level, but not at the micro-macro linkage.

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