Interaction in social networks has a strong, influence on whether or not individuals participate in voting and other political activism. Social interaction creates unique opportunities for individuals to learn about politics. It allows them to learn about various and differing views on political issues thus supporting the political activity of many people. It is my supposition that participation is dependent on the amount of political discussion that occurs within various social networks. Analyzing these interactions can provide a window into social networks and active political participation.
It also shows that such interactions play a crucial role in explaining the role of other that predict participation, such as group membership, high school civic participation and individual resources. First, when and how do social networks make people politically active? Second, is the impact of informal interaction in those networks distinct from that of formal social organizations? Finally, how much does a social network model of involvement add to our theoretical and substantive understanding of how people become involved in politics?
There really are two social network trends. The first is formal social interaction which is formal groups such as churches, social clubs and other formal organizations. These formal interactions develop many of our civic skills and expose people to more larger political opinions. The second in informal social interaction such as barbecues, parties and other interactions that are not in formal groups. These informal conversations expose people to political information from their surrounding social network.
The implication is that social interaction can make people more active in politics when it exposes them to politically-relevant information. Social discussion exposes people to a wide range of information that may influence decisions to participate, such as information about how desirable it is to participate. (McClurg, 2003). Discussions with friends who are interested or active in politics can help people learn about the reasons for participating while reinforcing the idea that such behavior is desirable among one’s peers.
People also may be exposed to information about the how politics works and how a person participates. Information about which candidate to support, why to support that candidate, when the candidate is holding a rally, or even how to just get involved are all types of information that can be effectively exchanged by these varying social interactions. Social interaction exposes people to a different set of politically-relevant information and stimuli than they possess individually. (McClurg, 2003).
Individual understanding, information, resources, and ability are limited because there is just oneself to process information. Social interaction with other people gives one another opportunity to develop thoughts and resources that lower the barriers to political participation. “Consequently, social resource supplement (rather than supplant) the person resources and abilities that make participation likely. ” (McClurg, 2003). Over the past 50 years in the United States, there has been a decline in many important facets of civic participation.
Particularly troubling has been the steady decrease in the percentage of adults voting in local and national elections, a trend that has been extensively documented. In 1996, there were 13 million voters registered to vote however, only 49% of those people turned out for the general election which was the lowest turnout since 1924. (Voting Patterns). Again in 2000 only 50% of the voters turned out for the general election. The following is the presidential voter turnout rates from 1948 to 2008.