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Seth Lewis 300

Seth Lewis is an assistant professor of new media journalism in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Rise of online media helps youth get engaged in politics, U of M expert says

October 11, 2010

Scholars have long known that people who follow the news, whether online or offline, are more likely to be active citizens in terms of politics, voting and community involvement. And for a long time, observers have noted and lamented that young people aren’t nearly as engaged politically as their older counterparts in the United States. Do these notions still hold true in campaign 2010?

A University of Minnesota expert who can comment on the evolving dynamic between media consumption and political participation is:

Seth Lewis, assistant professor, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, College of Liberal Arts

Most recently, Lewis has studied the relationship between how people get their political information (online vs. offline) and how that contributes to their political behavior, whether in the voting booth or in the online forum of public opinion.

Lewis has found that a preference for getting the news online indeed was related to higher levels of political involvement (i.e., voting, contributing money, sharing political information and related activities) both among older and younger adults. More importantly, a preference for online news was significantly stronger for young adults. “A preference for online media matters — and the younger citizens are, the more it matters,” Lewis says.

To see a video of Lewis discussing the topic of media preference and political involvement, visit http://mediamill.cla.umn.edu/mediamill/display/83146.

He says it's not just a matter of how people get that information, but the way in which they prefer it. In his research, Lewis found a link between preferring online news (e.g., watching TV news clips online rather than via the 5 o'clock news) and greater political engagement.

“The lesson, for campaigns and the public, is that as our media environment increasingly becomes digitized, this ‘news platform preference’ may contribute to narrowing the participation gap between age groups, as young voters become more and more engaged in the democratic process in part because of their preference for online,” Lewis says.

Lewis conducted this latest research with his former colleagues in the Community, Journalism and Communication Research unit at the University of Texas at Austin. For the related article in the International Journal of Internet Science, “News Platform Preference: Advancing the Effects of Age and Media Consumption on Political Participation,” see http://www.ijis.net/ijis5_1/ijis5_1_bachmann_et_al_pre.html.

Lewis’ research and teaching interests explore the changing ways in which journalism is produced and received and with what effect in the digital age. Some of his other research has focused on blogs, citizen journalism, social media and media innovation.

To interview Lewis, contact Jeff Falk, University News Service, jfalk@umn.edu or (612) 626-1720.

Expert Alert is a service provided by the University News Service. Delivered regularly, Expert Alert is designed to connect university experts to today's breaking news and current events. For an archive and other useful media services, visit www.unews.umn.edu. Views expressed by experts do not represent the views of the University of Minnesota.

Tags: College of Liberal Arts

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