The last forty years in America have seen tremendous changes technologically and culturally. Life has become increasingly easier as machines designed to improve living standards proliferated. Communications and travel capabilities have advanced dramatically, with long distance phone calls a thing of the past. Computers and smart phones have made an infinite amount of information readily available to students who can now conduct their research from anywhere.
Socially the changes have been just as tremendous, though perhaps not always for the better. Divorce rates have skyrocketed. Children frequently massacre one another on school grounds. The income inequality gap has steadily risen. Overall, Americans are feeling less connected to one another than ever before.
One casualty of this national disillusionment is the American political system. The average citizen no longer trusts the government to do what is in the nation’s best interest. A rapidly growing number of Americans do not bother to vote. Many feel that their participation in the system will have little or no effect in the long run.
Some believe that the answer to such widespread political apathy is the internet. All major campaigns now have websites capable of accepting online donations and disseminating a candidate’s platform to millions at a time. Arizona led the way in integrating online voting and many other states are getting set to follow in its footsteps. Perhaps such online accessibility will revive public participation in the political process.
Another area of American society hoping for an overhaul from the internet revolution is social connectedness. As people pull away from their television sets and towards computer screens, which are capable of facilitating interaction, perhaps Americans will again begin to socialize with one another more and with their favorite shows less. If this does happen, if social apathy is any way mended as a result of online communications forums, it is most likely that it will have a direct effect on political apathy as well. As political participation is dependent on the social connectedness of its citizens, one cannot change without affecting the other.
Political Participation Model
Political participation is a highly-varied and complex issue. While voter turnout may be the easiest form of it to quantify, the whole of political participation is not summed up by who votes and who does not. An individual may not choose to vote, but instead choose to contribute either their time or money to a campaign, or contact their elected official, or attend a demonstration, or volunteer on a community action committee, or participate in the activities of an interest group, etc.
Even with all of the different forms of political participation, there is a good model for predicting which individuals will be the most politically active. While participants need to have one or all of the following - time (i.e. voting, volunteering), money (i.e....