In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Civic/Political Participation

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Communication Civic/Political Participation
Michael A. Xenos
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 August 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 August 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0142


Whether in its deliberative aspect or other variants, democracy is in many ways a form of government fundamentally based on processes of communication and persuasion. As such, it is only natural that communications scholars should be interested in studying relationships between communication processes and civic or political engagement. These studies have traditionally drawn on scholarship in political science, which has an even longer standing engagement with concepts of political and civic engagement. More recently, the increasing significance of interactive communication technologies in the realm of politics and broader forces of sociotechnical change have opened the door for communications scholars to join in fundamental conceptual discussions concerning these topics. More often, however, communication scholarship, particularly through the interdisciplinary field of political communication, has focused on civic and political engagement as a set of outcome variables that, given their central place in democratic governance, provide opportunities for scholarship with particular relevance and value to the broader society. Along these lines, political communication research has investigated the effects of various kinds of communication and media on civic or political engagement, including interpersonal interactions, newspapers and television, political advertising, talk radio, and political entertainment programming as well as many communication phenomena related to the Internet.

Core Concepts

The conceptualization of civic and political participation has its roots in political science, but, more recently, even fundamental theorizing about the nature of civic and political participation has become the province of political communication research. This interdisciplinarity has been fueled, in part, by efforts to expand these concepts beyond their more traditional formulations, which view political or civic engagement largely in terms of formal acts of participation intended to affect government policy or the selection of those who make government policy (e.g., Verba, et al. 1995, cited under Political Participation). These discussions about what “counts” as civic/political engagement are also closely related to scholarship concerning the extent to which contemporary communication processes and other forces are contributing to new societal norms about what civic/political engagement means.

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