•1006 adults in a nationally representative sample completed an online survey.
•Online and offline political behaviors are often seen as occupying separate spheres.
•Research shows the most common online behavior was signing a petition.
•The most common offline one was voting.
•Conclusions suggest most citizens perceive political acts as communicative.
Since the infancy of the Internet, scholars have posited that the medium would mobilize and engage citizens, yet the reality has proven it to be more nuanced and complex. This project examines citizens’ motivations to engage in politics online, assessing how people are driven by both a desire to influence government as well as to communicate political ideas to others. We explore the ways these two behaviors are perceived by citizens in online versus offline contexts. We also examine how such perceptions can predict certain behaviors, such as “friending” a candidate and messaging with friends about politics. We find that these behaviors are indeed perceived differently among citizens, and that perceptions predict the likelihood of participating in online political forums.
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