Revisiting Political Participation? Approaches and Measures of Participation in Online Democracy Era

Voting in election is certainly the most common form of political participation and, consequently, the most examined by scholars who focus on various and intertwined explanations of citizens’ engagement in politics. Other modes of political involvement – more or less related to turnout or political parties, more or less constrained by opportunities, more or less demanding in terms of resources and motivation – have also been studied. The repertoire of political participation forms expands well beyond the election process, and Internet fuels the spread.

Such diversification brings back enduring questions about what political participation is, how to measure it, and, possibly, how to explain citizens’ (lack of) political engagement. This essay starts with a definition of political participation and a summary of the most common ways to see it from a political behavior perspective. Then, on this basis, it critically reviews most common measures of online political participation. Finally, it briefly assesses the relevance of existing theories on political participation – especially the models which emphasize opportunities, motivations and ressources as explanatory variables – to achieve a better understanding of online mobilization.