Social Science Computer Review

Volume 31, No. 3

Fall, 2013


Campaign-related Social Networking & the Political Participation of College Students / Laurie L. Rice, 

Kenneth W. Moffett & Ramana Madupalli

                Abstract:  College students politically participate through traditional mechanisms at lower rates than their elders. Yet, members of this group may participate by other means, like friending candidates & joining political groups through social networking websites. We argue that these online activities serve as a meaningful form of civic engagement by broadening who participates & encouraging other forms of participation. Using a survey of randomly chosen undergraduates at a large Midwestern university, we discover that important distinctions exist between those who friend or join these online social networks & those who participate in more traditional offline political activities. While interest in politics is a precursor to offline engagement, it does not predict friending or joining an online social network that is political in nature. However, friending candidates or joining such networks appears to mobilize college students to engage in other forms of political participation.


Online political engagement, Facebook and personality traits / Ellen Quintelier & Yannis Theocharis

Abstract: Despite the growing literature on the effects of personality traits on political participation, there is little discussion about the potential effects of such traits on the increasingly popular forms of online political engagement. In a changing media environment where social production and exposure becomes central, people with different personality traits may be inclined to engage into forms of participation that are different from those in the offline realm. Using the ‘Big 5’ framework we test the effect of personality traits on various forms of online and offline political engagement in a sample of undergraduate students. Consistent with long-standing empirical observations in the offline realm, our findings show that the effects of personality traits on online forms of political engagement do not differ. Only openness to experience and extraversion have an effect on online political engagement. For consciousness, agreeableness and emotional stability only small effects were observed.


Social Workers and Broadband Advocacy: Social Justice and Information Communications Technologies / Joseph Kuilema

Abstract:  This paper presents the results of an exploratory study examining attitudes towards broadband advocacy, as related to attitudes towards and use of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) and a variety of other personal, political, and professional characteristics.  A random sample (n = 297) of licensed social workers in Michigan was surveyed.  There is a growing body of literature indicating that access to broadband Internet is an important element of the digital divide, especially in the United States, which after having led in this area has fallen behind.  Findings from this study indicate significant relationships between willingness to engage in broadband advocacy and political views, attitudes towards and use of ICT, and knowledge about broadband.  The implications for a profession focused on social justice and advocacy on behalf of vulnerable populations are explored.


Historical Network Analysis of the Web / Niels Brügger

                Abstract: This article discusses some of the fundamental methodological challenges related to doing historical network analyses of the web based on material in web archives. Since the late ‘90s many countries have established extensive national web archives, and software supported network analysis of the online web has for a number of years gained currency within internet studies. However, the combination of these two phenomena — historical network analysis of material in web archives — can at best be characterized as an emerging new area of study. Most of the methodological challenges within this new area revolve around the specific nature of archived web material. On the basis of an introduction to the processes involved in web archiving as well as of the charecteristics of archived web material, the article outlines and scrutinizes some of the major challenges which may arise when doing network analysis in web archives, among others such issues as completeness, construction of a corpus, temporal and spatial inconsistencies, and cross-archive analyses. The article uses an ongoing case study to feed the methodological discussion, namely the political network on the web which was available to a voter at the Danish parliamentary elections in 2011, 2007, and 2001. As the internet grows older historical studies of networks on the web will probably become more widespread and therefore it may be about time to begin debating the methodological challenges within this emerging field.


The Design of Grids in Web Surveys / Mick P. Couper,  Roger Tourangeau, Frederick G. Conrad, &  Chan Zhang

Abstract:  Grid or matrix questions are associated with a number of problems in Web surveys.  In this paper, we present results from two experiments testing the design of grid questions to reduce breakoffs, missing data, and satisficing.  The first examines dynamic elements to help guide respondent through the grid, and on splitting a larger grid into component pieces.  The second manipulates the visual complexity of the grid and on simplifying the grid.  We find that using dynamic feedback to guide respondents through a multi-question grid helps reduce missing data.  Splitting the grids into component questions further reduces missing data and motivated underreporting.  The visual complexity of the grid appeared to have little effect on performance.


Combining Mail and E-mail Contacts to Facilitate Participation in Mixed-Mode Surveys / Glenn D. Israel

Abstract:  This study examines how available e-mail addresses can be incorporated into mixed-mode procedures for surveys of the public, especially client groups.  Cooperative Extension Service clients provide the basis for analyzing how implementation procedures affect response rates and substantive findings.  These clients form three strata based on contact information provided: postal address only, e-mail only, and both.  From clients who provided mail and e-mail addresses, four experimental groups were created, including two mixed-mode groups, a mail only group and an e-mail only group.  Using mail and e-mail addresses to implement a sequence of e-mail and postal invitations in a mixed-mode design resulted in response rates that are equivalent to those for mail only surveys.  Also, clients who provided a postal address only differed on some attributes from those in the other strata.  This study demonstrates the benefit of obtaining e-mail addresses and using them in mixed-mode surveys.


Effects of E-Mailed Versus Mailed Invitations and Incentives on Response Rates, Data Quality, and Costs in a Web Survey of University Faculty / Jennifer Dykema, John Stevenson, Lisa Klein, Yujin Kim, & Brendan Day

Abstract: While a large literature indicates that using a mixed-mode approach to notify or contact potential respondents can be effective in increasing response rates, surprisingly little research examines the impact the mode of invitation has on participation in a Web survey.  To assess the effects of invitation mode on response rates, costs, and demographic representativeness, university faculty members (N = 280) were randomly assigned to experimental groups and sent:  a mailed invitation letter and a $2 cash incentive; a mailed invitation letter only; or an e-mailed invitation.  Nonresponding faculty received up to two reminders to participate by e-mail.  Results indicated that the response rates were higher for the groups invited using a postal letter, but the inclusion of $2 did not significantly increase response rates.  Consistent with expectations, while costs were higher for the mailed invitation groups, the mailed invitations improved the demographic representativeness of the respondents, especially for the $2 incentive group.  This study builds on a small body of literature that explicitly examines the mode of invitation on survey participation in Web surveys and adds to previous findings by examining costs and effects on the demographic representativeness of the respondents.


How Lotteries and Study Results Influence Response Behavior in Online Panels / Anja S. Göritz & Susanne C. Luthe

Abstract: Two incentive experiments on response behavior were conducted in a nonprofit online panel. Experiment 1 examined effects of a lottery and of the lottery's splitting into multiple prizes. Two cash lotteries and a no-incentive control group were compared. One lottery was announced to be paid out in one lump sum, whereas the other lottery was split into multiple smaller prizes. Dependent variables were two facets of response quantity, namely response and retention, and two facets of response quality, namely nondifferentiation and item nonresponse. Moreover, panelists' characteristics were tested whether they moderated the lottery effects. The lottery and its splitting did not significantly affect response behavior; however, in terms of effect sizes, splitting the lottery mildly decreased response quantity. Experiment 2 was in part aimed at replication. In addition, it examined the effect of offering study results. Dependent variables were response, retention and nondifferentiation. The cash lottery mildly enhanced response quantity and quality, whereas splitting the lottery tended to decrease response quantity. Offering study results had no impact on response behavior, both as a stand-alone incentive and in combination with a lottery. The two experiments revealed moderating effects, but these were not stable across both studies. A share of invitees in Experiment 1 was re-invited in Experiment 2, thus enabling analysis of whether their lottery condition in Experiment 1 influenced their response behavior five months later in Experiment 2. No such longitudinal effects were found.