Organizing Online - Political Participation and Hobbyism on Reddit

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2021-02

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Abstract

Over the last decade, social media has transformed many aspects of society, including how citizens participate in politics. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit are famous for promoting conflict, driving polarization, and contributing to extremism. However, they may also be able to serve as powerful tools for fueling the types of political participation essential to democracy. This thesis examines the similarities and differences in how various online communities discuss political participation by performing a content analysis of user-generated posts and comments in four different Reddit communities during September 2020. During this collection period, organizing-focused, small, and liberal communities discussed substantive participation more than their counterparts did, with voting being the most commonly discussed form of participation. Communities varied in what percentage of their posts and comments discussed participation, with the highest rates at around 30% and the lowest at 0%. Users encouraged others to participate more often than they described their own participation. A higher percentage of posts discussed participation than did comments. These findings suggest that some online communities can be effective outlets for sustained, impactful organizing. They also lend insight into the characteristics of these communitites, which are often smaller, with specific community goals and significant restrictions on what type of content can be posted. The data suggests electoral campaigns can have particular success in using Reddit to drive participation. There is also a significant difference in how much liberal and conservative spaces discuss participation that is not strongly supported by prior literatute.

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McThenia, Noah (2021). Organizing Online - Political Participation and Hobbyism on Reddit. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/22342.


Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.