Res Publica - Journal of Undergraduate Research


Social media is an integral part of everyday life for the current generation of college-age students. Researchers debate whether the time invested into these sites has a positive or negative influence on offline political activism. Drawing on an original survey of undergraduate students at Illinois Wesleyan University, this study finds that online political engagement has a significant, positive relationship with offline political activism, and this relationship holds even when controlling for the respondent’s political efficacy and natural political inclination. There is a positive relationship between online and offline political activism for students who believe that social media is an appropriate platform for political content; this indicator conditions the strength of online political engagement. Most importantly, observing political content on social media and searching for political information on social media both positively correlated with offline political activism. These results support the theory that the time and energy spent on social media positively influences offline political activism. Therefore, social networking sites should be considered positive mobilization and educational tools for United States college students.