Participatory and Deliberative Democracy: How an NGO Could Help Create and Sustain a Healthy Democracy through Encouraging Traditional and Non-Traditional Political Participation

A central basic tenant of democratic theory asserts that democracies require the voice of the people to be heard and acted upon by the government. A growing concern in the United States has become the perception by the people that their government officials are not responsive to their voices. For this paper, I will offer a basic exploratory proposal for a non-governmental organization designed to address this problem. I will begin by examining the problem of participation and representation. I will examine the issue of political participation, looking specifically at why people do not participate. I will offer evidence that shows that while participation in the electoral process is weak, participation in other forms of political activities are becoming preferred avenues for citizens to voice their political views. Next, I will discuss how nonviolent and legal political participation can be an effective alternative to traditional forms of participation. I will also offer evidence of how NGO’s can influence political participation. Finally, I will suggest that an NGO can offer citizens a way to become politically engaged in both traditional and non-traditional ways by focusing on involving the citizenry in four main goals: (1) information and education, (2) discussion focusing on examining the context and the critical analysis of social and political issues, (3) organizing and promoting traditional as well as nonviolent and legal non-traditional political participation, and (4) using various participatory methods to compile data which can be used to inform public policy decisions.

The proposal offered explores the potential of an NGO that holds both national and local public forums for discussion on current social and political issues with the expressed purpose of the public exchange of information and data, holding public discussions on the context and implications of the information and data in order to form knowledgeable and critically examined political views, and then collecting data on participants’ political views to inform public policy. The goal is fourfold: To inform and educate citizens, to promote discussion amongst citizens, to promote participation by citizens and to give political voice to citizens.

The proposed NGO would address deliberative and participatory elements of democracy. Currently, these functions are weakly exemplified in the electoral process. During elections, citizens may casually deliberate with others and their primary participatory function is to vote. The November 2014 general elections in the United States saw a voter turnout rate of approximately 36.1 percent.[1] Voter turnout in the November 2014 general elections was the lowest it has been since 1942 which saw a turnout rate of 33.9 percent.[2] Typically, since 1948, voter turnout rates for general elections in the U.S. hovers on average at approximately 42.3 percent and for presidential elections on average at approximately 58.9 percent.[3] It is reported that 75 percent of the voters who turned out for the November 2014 general elections were white, 12 percent were African American, 8 percent were Latino, 3 percent were Asian and 2 percent were “other.”[4] The U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2013, estimates the U.S. population at 316,128,839 people.[5] White people made up approximately 62.6 percent of the population, followed by Latinos at 17.1 percent, African Americans at 13.2 percent, Asians at 5.3 percent, Native Americans at 1.2 percent and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders at 0.2 percent.[6] So, to put these numbers in perspective, out of a population of approximately 316 million people, approximately 114 million people voted, leaving approximately 202 million people who did not give their voice to this democracy. Of those 202 million people, approximately 85 million people (approximately 42 percent) were minorities.

In 2014, Belgium had voter turnout rates for their parliamentary elections at 89 percent.[7] Luxembourg, Fiji, Sweden, Brazil, Panama, Indonesia, Malta, Turkey, South Africa and Malawi all had presidential and/or parliamentary election turnout rates of above 70 percent in 2014.[8] In 2013, Rwanda had a voter turnout rate for their parliamentary elections at 98 percent.[9] Parliamentary and/or presidential voter turnout rates following Rwanda in 2013 were Nauru (96 percent), Australia (93 percent), Malta (92 percent), Maldives (91 percent), Turkmenistan (91 percent), Luxembourg (91 percent), Cuba (90 percent), and Tajikistan (90 percent).[10] Grenada, Kenya, Aruba, Malaysia, Cyprus, Iceland, Ecuador, Cayman Islands, Liechtenstein, Venezuela, Norway, Argentina, Cameroon, Italy, Austria, Monaco, Mauritania, Iran, Azerbaijan, and Germany all had voter turnout rates above 70 percent for either presidential and/or parliamentary elections in 2013.[11]

Dispute over exactly what these numbers mean is an important discussion, yet it is beyond the scope of this paper. Despite disputes that may arise over these numbers, what should alarm the people of the U.S. remains clear. If we generously assume elected officials are indeed representing the interests of the voters, electoral politics is still only accounting for the voices of a small fraction of the U.S. population. The small fraction of the U.S. population that is being represented is overwhelming white, over fifty years old, are more financially secure and have attended some college.[12]  An often restated and accepted premise of democratic theory is that in order for a healthy democracy to function, it necessarily requires the participation of the vast majority of the people.[13] The health of a democracy is oftentimes “evaluated by how much influence the public has.”[14] When only a small fraction of the population is being represented, a democracy fails to function as a healthy democracy that is responsive to public influence. If this is true, then the lack of participation and representation presents a threat to democracy in the United States.

Why do people not participate in the electoral process? Survey responses are varied. A Pew Research survey found that “Six-in-ten intermittent voters say they sometimes don’t know enough about candidates to vote compared with 44 percent of regular voters.”[15] Intermittent voters also stated they chose not to vote because they found politics boring.[16] The survey found that “40 percent of intermittent voters say that in general most people can be trusted, compared with 52 percent of all regular voters.”[17] Perhaps, suggests the survey, “This is another factor that may prevent intermittent voters from building the kinds of community and interpersonal connections that directly lead to political participation.”[18] The survey also found that regular voters more often than intermittent voters were “contacted by a candidate or political group encouraging them to vote.”[19] Intermittent voters are also typically less educated and less affluent compared to regular voters.[20] Non-voters, according to the survey are “politically estranged,” in that “they are the least interested in local politics” and are “the most likely to say voting doesn’t change things.”[21] These voters “are five times more likely to say they’re too busy to vote” and are “less likely to know people in their neighborhood.”[22] Additionally, issues such as new identification requirements, “shortened early voting periods,” “limits on same-day voter registration” and long wait times to vote due to inadequately equipped election stations have been attributed to low minority voter turnout rates.[23] Overall, the factors that are correlated with lack of participation in the electoral process primarily include lack of interest, knowledge, ability, and social interaction.

However, what analyses of electoral participation fail to account for is non-traditional political participation. Gene Sharp outlines numerous methods of nonviolent, non-traditional forms of political participation and argues these methods effect change by demonstrating that political power rests with the people.[24] In other words, reminiscent of Trotsky, Gandhi and social contract theorists, the government has power over the people only because the people allow it. Studies have shown that while traditional political participation such as voting and contacting one’s representatives are in decline, “participatory acts like political consumerism, demonstrations and internet activism have become important channels of public voice and participation in contemporary democracies.”[25]

A recent history of events lends evidence to the appeal and potential effectiveness of non-traditional forms of participation. In response to a lack of government action to address ongoing massive environmental degradation, 20 million people protested across the U.S. on the first Earth Day, April 22, 1979.[26] The protests united people across political and social divisions and led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency.[27] The first Earth Day celebration demonstrates the potential power of non-traditional political participation.

Protestors in at least 568 U.S. cities joined the Occupy Movement protests in 2011.[28] A study by sociologists at the City University of New York found that “more than a third of the people who participated in Occupy Wall Street protests in New York lived in households with annual incomes of $100,000 or more” and “more than two-thirds had professional jobs.”[29] However, labor unions also joined the movement.[30] The factor uniting the movement was frustration with the lack of responsiveness of elected officials to economic issues. The majority of the protestors reported having lost their jobs, accrued debt and become disillusioned with the traditional forms of political participation in the U.S.[31]

In 2014, thousands of protestors joined protests in at least a dozen U.S. cities after a grand jury in Ferguson, MO decided there was not enough evidence to pursue criminal charges against police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed African American teenager.[32] The nationwide protests are significant in that they were primarily a movement by minorities and people under 40 years old, reminiscent of the Civil Rights Movement.[33]

Social media has become a launching point for initiating political discussion, sharing information, promoting voluntarism and organizing protests.[34] Studies have shown the use of online media to engage in social and political issues has been rising among college students and leads to offline activism.[35] Social media has become the preferred way for younger generations to engage with politics.

On the other side of the political spectrum, the Tea Party movement has spawned activists across the country. Tea Party activists are considered those who donate money to the movement and/or attend Tea Party rallies.[36] According to one report “These activists make up 20 percent of Tea Party supporters and 4 percent of Americans overall.”[37] Within the movement itself, 89 percent of the members are white, three in four are over 45 years old, 29 percent are over 65, and 59 percent are men.[38]  Within the movement, “37 percent are college graduates, compared to 25 percent of Americans overall…with 56 percent making more than $50,000 per year.”[39] Overwhelmingly, Tea Party members and activists disapprove of the policies of the Obama administration, are “angry” about government actions, and are “pessimistic about the country.”[40] 93 percent are concerned about the economy while 89 percent assert the role of the government has been expanded too much.[41] Support for the movement has waned in recent years with a Gallup poll finding 22 percent of U.S. citizens supporting the group, down from 32 percent at its peak in 2010.[42] Studies have found between 37 percent and 44 percent of likely voters sympathize with the Tea Party movement.[43]

There is a growing movement toward non-traditional political participation that many citizens on both the right and the left have chosen to utilize to give voice to their political beliefs. On the left, the citizens that are engaging in these non-traditional forms of participation are the very citizens that are statistically the majority of non-voters. They are younger than 45 years old, less financially secure, minorities, and/or are disillusioned with the traditional forms of political participation. On the right, these citizens are statistically the majority of likely voters. They are white, older than 45 years old, men, and are typically more affluent than the working class. These citizens are pessimistic about the government, but their pessimism hasn’t disillusioned them from voting.

Studies have shown that overwhelmingly, regarding traditional forms of political participation, “men participate more often than women, and we find a significant relation between [traditional] political participation on the one hand and education level and age on the other.”[44] Conversely, non-traditional forms of political participation “are much more successful in attracting female participants than conventional forms are.”[45] The same is true for age. Older people utilize traditional forms of political participation while younger people utilize non-traditional forms.[46] In that at least some underrepresented groups seek political voice in non-traditional political participation, non-traditional political participation can act as a “counter balance” to the dominance of the majority.[47]

Several questions arise at this point. Are representatives responsive to non-traditional political participation? Or, conversely, do representatives respond only to voters, thus they only respond to non-traditional political participation if they believe the participants are likely to vote? Should representatives be responsive to non-traditional political participation? Could non-traditional political participation encourage traditional forms of participation?

All of these questions require a much more in depth investigation than I am capable of in this this exploratory paper. However, regarding the first two questions, at least at first glance based on the meagre evidence provided here, it does appear that representatives are primarily responsive to likely voters. Nixon’s creation of the EPA after the first Earth Day celebrations was a political move. It is reported that “Prior to the Earth Day demonstrations of 1970, the president showed little interest in environmental issues. But in the millions who gathered in communities around the nation, he saw political power.”[48] The Tea Party movement has consistently backed politicians and won elections, to such an impressive degree that less extreme Republican politicians are weary of voicing dissent with the movement’s extreme ideologies.[49]

One may argue, and many political observers have, that public polling is a way for citizens to reach the government, whether citizens are likely voters are not.[50] These polls are pervasive and highly sought after by government officials.[51] Even if we graciously assume the polling information is genuinely sought after to gauge the political viewpoints of constitutes in order to better represent said constituents (and not just to gauge likely voter’s preferences), polls suffer from a number of representational problems. Exclusion bias silences the voices of people by offering targeted questions that are exclusionary of potential political views.[52] Sampling bias was found to be a significant concern in a study that evaluated the correlation between the introduction and enactment of legislation and polling data on constituents’ political views.[53] Sampling bias occurred when the sample focused on issues that were most likely to be addressed by representatives anyway.[54] The study found that “preference data are available only for a biased sample of proposals: for salient issues, nearly always […] for non-salient issues, barely more than a third.”[55] The study questions how responsive representatives are to public opinion and found that of 69 percent of the proposals studied, “sometimes the government is definitely unresponsive (when it ignores issue preferences), and sometimes (when there are no data on preferences) we can’t say whether it is or not.”[56] In short, public opinion polls have been inadequate tools for public political participation because they are fraught with biases and/or are not responded to by the government.

The third question is a theoretical question. Again, much more is owed to this question than I can offer here, but the quick answer is yes, politicians ought to listen and respond to non-traditional forms of political participation. If we are not living in a Machiavellian state where politicians are first and foremost agents concerned with their own power and self-interest, then yes, they ought to be responsive to non-traditional forms of democratic discourse and participation. If we are a democracy and democracy requires the voice of the people to be heard and acted upon, then politicians need to listen and respond to that voice however that voice chooses to present itself.  Right now that voice is screaming that traditional forms of political participation are inadequate. A lack of response by public servants to those screams is a death knell for democracy in the U.S.

Non-traditional political participation that focuses on discussion and interaction between citizens offers nuances that can enrich democratic participation in the U.S. Discussion and deliberation are crucial to democracy in that “For democracy to function there has to be scope for: diversity of opinion; free expression of those opinions; and resolution of differences and conflicts.”[57] Political discussion “is one means by which salient information, opinion and argument can spread through an electorate, and can be a means by which individuals make up their minds on the issues before them by testing their views against those of others.”[58]

The prior theoretical question leads us to the last question. Studies have shown that participants in the Civil Rights Movement, those activists in civic and religious organizations who discussed politics outside of the family, were more likely to vote.[59] However, the movement’s strong emphasis on turning out supporters’ vote could be credited with this phenomenon.[60] As noted earlier, the Tea Party movement has become a force for generating votes. Another study has shown that political discussion correlates with voting.[61] According to the study, “the larger an individual’s network of political discussants, other things being equal, the more likely he or she was to report voting, and to actually vote.”[62] Disagreement within discussions has only a small correlation with decreasing voter turnout.[63] Significantly, the study also found that the more disagreement within a discussion network, “the more likely one is to have volunteered to get involved in politics or community affairs.”[64] Political discussion, whether with like-minded people or not, “seems to encourage political participation.”[65] An individual’s potential for political mobilization, whether in traditional or non-traditional forms of participation, is correlated with increases in the number of discussants of various viewpoints an individual engages.[66]

“Voluntary discussion networks” facilitate deliberative democracy in a number of ways outside of simply voting but are beneficial for an informed electorate.[67] First, individuals who discuss political issues within voluntary discussion networks are introduced to information they may not have otherwise encountered.[68] Second, individuals can better make sense of the context and meaning of information if they are able to discuss the information with others.[69] Third, if individuals are exposed to conflicting political viewpoints within voluntary discussion networks, they will more actively seek out additional information in order to justify their views or reconsider their initial stances.[70]

Another study examined the “added-value effect” of the social interaction associated with discussion networks.[71] High status individuals (i.e. white, men, college-educated, and more affluent) “are more likely to participate than lower status people because they have resources that make participation easier for them.”[72] However, “low status people may still become politically active if they accrue social resources […] social resources may close the participation gap that exists between low and high status individuals.”[73] The study found that low status individuals who often discuss politics are four times more likely to participate in electoral politics.[74] Of course, one is always reminded that correlation is not necessarily causation. Perhaps, people must have an interest in politics for both political discussion and political participation to occur. However, voluntary discussion networks where discussions of politics takes place can recruit otherwise uninterested people by providing them with information and knowledge, thereby increasing their awareness of and interest in political issues.[75]

Non-traditional political participation is crucially embedded in discussion at the core of the deliberative function of democracy. Political discussion within voluntary discussion networks itself increases the likelihood that people will demonstrate, sign petitions, practice political consumerism, practice online activism and so on. However, Brian Martin and W. Varney point out the broadly discursive effects of non-traditional political participation. They state, “In relation to opponents, nonviolent [non-traditional political] action plays a double role in relation to dialogue: it is both a direct attempt at dialogue – most obviously in methods of symbolic action – and preparation for dialogue.”[76] In regard to third parties, non-traditional political participation can “constitute a communication channel that carries the message,” that is blocked via traditional channels such as media and party affiliations.[77] In regard to members within the same movement, non-traditional political participation communicates empowerment within the movement by communicating that individuals can make a difference.[78] Non-traditional political participation also communicates to others with common views, but who may be isolated due to censorship, that they are part of a larger movement and gives individuals “an inner sense of meaning, well-being and strength” through shared participation.[79]

Taking Martin and Varney’s lead, regarding opponents, non-traditional political participation opens up the discussion to the diversity of opinions and viewpoints required for a healthy democracy. Regarding third parties, non-traditional political participation communicates to third parties information and knowledge that otherwise could have been missing from their discussions. Regarding people who share the same political views, non-traditional political participation communicates a shared set of political beliefs, thereby recruiting people to participate politically. Non-traditional political participation also communicates and invitation for others to get involved.

Despite a plethora of empirical evidence that demonstrates how political discussion correlates to increases in political participation and gives a democratic voice to the underrepresented, empirical evidence drawing a direct correlation between specific forms of non-traditional political participation and voting is hard to find. Even if there is a lack of empirical evidence to support whether non-traditional forms of political participation in and of themselves necessarily leads to voting, I would question, does it matter? It doesn’t matter if non-traditional forms of political participation lead to voting. What matters is that in a democracy the public servants need to be public servants. Arguments for political realism aside, ethically and theoretically they need to be responsive to the voice of the people, regardless of if it is directly attributable to increasing votes. Granted, the issue then becomes, how do we democratically measure public views using non-traditional forms of public participation? It becomes a problem with developing an alternative method to voting (and polling for that matter) for gauging democratic sentiment. The NGO I am proposing would also address this issue.

A number of NGO’s currently exist that work in various ways to promote democracy.[80] The NGO that I am proposing would focus on providing an arena specifically for deliberative and participatory democracy. It would provide an arena for citizens to become informed of and discuss social and political issues. It would also provide an arena for citizens to learn how to become involved in both traditional and non-traditional forms of political participation. Finally, it would provide an arena to compile the concerns and views of the citizenry so that data can be used to inform representatives, giving voice to citizens.

The NGO would provide an arena for citizens to become informed of and discuss social and political issues by holding local and nationwide forums for discussion. These forums could be held using local institutions with online access for viewing and online comments. The goal is to facilitate discussion that engages, informs and educates people. To do so, the forum needs to allow for the exchange of information and the discussion of context and analysis. The forum needs to allow for the crucial diversity of ideas and viewpoints that a healthy democracy requires. The NGO will offer political information and data, such as who the representatives are, what legislation they have proposed, what legislation they have voted on, where their campaign funding comes from, and more. The information will be designed to be easily accessible for the public through the utilization of internet resources. The internet would also be used for a secondary forum for discussion. The NGO will also offer resources for people to conduct their own research into social and political issues, resources above and beyond mainstream media. By facilitating discussion, the NGO would seek to provide an arena for individuals to form critical and coherent political viewpoints.

The NGO would provide an arena for citizens to learn how to become involved in both traditional and non-traditional forms of political participation. First, it would offer resources for people to register to vote, to contact their representatives, and information on other forms of traditional political participation. Second, it would offer resources for people to organize and mobilize their own movements. Third, it would educate people on non-traditional political participation. The NGO would focus on non-traditional, nonviolent, political participation as a way to engage those people disillusioned and underrepresented by traditional forms of political participation. Fourth, it would act as a community center of sorts, where individuals can meet others who share their political view, as well as others who do not. By interacting with individuals with shared views as well as those with diverse views, people will be encouraged to work together to resolve political issues, thereby creating trust and a sense of community among participants. Granted, the NGO would obviously need trained conflict resolution moderators in order to facilitate this process in case of conflict.

The NGO would provide an arena for citizens to voice their political viewpoints by going beyond the voting and polling methods currently in use. With participants’ consent, participants’ data and political views will be collected and used to create collective letters, mass petitions, and mock elections. For example, participants’ political views could be matched to the voting records and proposed legislation of legislators to determine who would or would not be elected to offices of government. In compiling the data and political views, the NGO would need to go beyond the biases that polling methods are plagued by. It could do this by not compiling the information via a traditional questionnaire, but instead by allowing for free form expression of viewpoints.

Again, my attempt in this paper has not been to provide a thorough proposal for an NGO. My goal has been to offer an exploratory assessment of current issues regarding political participation, political discussion and the correlations of such issues to the health of democracies in order to ultimately suggest that an NGO that addresses these issues by focusing on elements of participatory and deliberative democracy would allow for a healthier democracy in the U.S. I have demonstrated that non-traditional political participation is on the rise and represents a crucial part of democratic discussion that must be heard and acted upon. Further, I have demonstrated that discussion and political participation in both traditional and non-traditional forms is strongly correlated. Finally, I have offered a preliminary proposal for an NGO that could combine elements of deliberative and participatory democracy in order to promote the crucial diversity of civic discussion and participation needed for a healthy democracy.

[1] United States Election Project, “2014 November General Election Turnout Rates,” November 25, 2014, http://www.electproject.org/2014g

[2] Jose A. DelReal, “Voter Turnout in 2014 was the Lowest Since WWII,” The Washington Post, November 10, 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2014/11/10/voter-turnout-in-2014-was-the-lowest-since-wwii/

[3] The Center for Voting and Democracy, “Voter Turnout: Turnout of U.S. Voting Eligible Population, 1948-2012,” http://www.fairvote.org/research-and-analysis/voter-turnout/

[4] DelReal, “Voter Turnout in 2014 was the Lowest Since WWII”

[5] United States Census Bureau, “State and County Quick Facts: USA,” July 8, 2014, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/00000.html

[6] Ibid.

[7] International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, “Voter Turnout,” http://www.idea.int/vt/

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Pew Research, “The Party of Nonvoters,” October 31, 2014, http://www.people-press.org/2014/10/31/the-party-of-nonvoters-2/#

[13] Dietram A. Scheufele, “Examining Differential Gains from Mass Media and Their Implications for Participatory Behavior,” Communication Research, February 2002, p. 48.

[14] Paul Burstein, “Why Estimates of the Impact of Public Opinion on Public Policy Are Too High: Empirical and Theoretical Implications,” Social Forces, June 2006, p. 2273.

[15] Pew Research, “Who Votes, Who Doesn’t, and Why: Regular Voters, Intermittent Voters, and Those Who Don’t,” October 18, 2006, http://www.people-press.org/2006/10/18/who-votes-who-doesnt-and-why/#

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Stephanie Mencimer, “Even Without Voter ID Laws, Minority Voters Face More Hurdles to Casting Blallots,” Mother Jones, November 3, 2014, http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/10/minority-voters-election-long-lines-id. See also, Erik Eckholm, “As New Rules Take Effect, Voters Report Problem in Some States,” The New York Times, November 4, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/05/us/election-tests-new-rules-on-voting.html

[24] Gene Sharp, “From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation,” Peace and Conflict Studies, Ed. Charles P. Webel and Jorgen Johansen, Routledge, pp. 299-311

[25] Sofie Marien, Marc Hooghe, Ellen Quintelier, “Inequalities in Non-Institutionalized Forms of Political Participation: A Multilevel Analysis for 25 Countries,” Political Studies, 2010, p. 188.

[26] Earth Day Network, “Earth Day: The History of a Movement,” http://www.earthday.org/earth-day-history-movement

[27] Ibid.

[28] Simon Rogers, “Occupy Protests Around the World: Full List Visualised,” The Guardian, November 14, 2011, http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2011/oct/17/occupy-protests-world-list-map

[29] Colin Moynihan, “In ‘Occupy,’ Well-Educated Professionals Far Outnumbered Jobless, Study Finds,” The New York Times, January 28, 2013, http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/28/in-occupy-well-educated-professionals-far-outnumbered-jobless-study-finds/?_r=0

[30] Steven Greenhouse and Cara Buckley, “Seeking Energy, Unions Join Protest Against Wall Street,” The New York Times, October 5, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/06/nyregion/major-unions-join-occupy-wall-street-protest.html?pagewanted=all

[31] Ruth Milkman, Stephanie Luce, Penny Lewis, “Changing the Subject: A Bottom-Up Account of Occupy Wall Street in New York City,” City University of New York, http://sps.cuny.edu/filestore/1/5/7/1_a05051d2117901d/ 1571_92f562221b8041e.pdf. See also Greenhouse and Buckley, “Seeking Energy, Unions Join Protest Against Wall Street”

[32] BBC News, “Ferguson Shooting: Protests Spread Across US,” November 26, 2014, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-30203526

[33] Michael Wines, “Reaction to Ferguson Decision Shows Racial Divide Remains Over Views of Justice,” The New York Times, November 25, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/26/us/after-ferguson-announcement-a-racial-divide-remains-over-views-of-justice.html?_r=0

[34] Joseph Oteng, “Generation Ideal: Millennials and Social Media Activism,” USA Today, August 18, 2014, http://college.usatoday.com/2014/08/18/generation-ideal-millennials-and-social-media-activism/

[35] Ernie Smith, “PEW: Online Political Activity Leads to Offline Activism,” Associations Now, April 26, 2013, http://associationsnow.com/2013/04/pew-online-political-activity-leads-to-offline-activism/

[36] Stephanie Condon, “Poll: Tea Party Activists Small but Passionate Group,” CBS News, December 14, 2012, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/poll-tea-party-activists-small-but-passionate-group/

[37] Ibid.

[38] Brian Montopoli, “Tea Party Supporters: Who They Are and What They Believe,” CBS News, December 14, 2012, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/tea-party-supporters-who-they-are-and-what-they-believe/

[39] Ibid.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Ibid.

[42] Lydia Saad, “Tea Party Support Dwindles to Near-Record Low,” Gallup, September 26, 2013, http://www.gallup.com/poll/164648/tea-party-support-dwindles-near-record-low.aspx

[43] Devin Burghart, “Special Report: The Status of the Tea Party Movement – Part Two,” Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, January 21, 2014, http://www.irehr.org/issue-areas/tea-party-nationalism/tea-party-news-and-analysis/item/527-status-of-tea-party-by-the-numbers

[44] Marien, Hooghe, Quintelier, “Inequalities in Non-Institutionalized Forms of Political Participation: A Multilevel Analysis for 25 Countries,” p. 200

[45] Ibid, p. 201

[46] Ibid.

[47] Ibid. p. 210

[48] American Experience, “Nixon,” PBS, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/general-article/nixon-domestic/

[49] Burghart, “Special Report: The Status of the Tea Party Movement – Part Two.” See also Devin Burghart “Tea Party Endorsed Candidates Dominate Election 2014,” Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, November 5, 2014, http://www.irehr.org/issue-areas/tea-party-nationalism/tea-party-news-and-analysis/610-tea-party-election-2014

[50] Adam J. Berinsky, Silent Voices, Princeton University Press, 2004, p. 4

[51] Ibid.

[52] Ibid, p. 7-8

[53] Paul Burstein, “Why Estimates of the Impact of Public Opinion on Public Policy Are Too High: Empirical and Theoretical Implications,” Social Forces, June 2006, pp. 2273-2289

[54] Ibid. p. 2273

[55] Ibid. p. 2277

[56] Ibid. p. 2281

[57] C.J. Pattie and R.J. Johnston, “Conversation, Disagreement and Political Participation,” Political Behavior, June 2009, p. 263

[58] Ibid.

[59] Kraig Beyerlein and Kenneth T. Andrews, “Black Voting During the Civil Rights Movement: A Micro-Level Analysis,” Social Forces, September 2008, pp. 15-17.

[60] Ibid.

[61] Pattie and Johnston, “Conversation, Disagreement and Political Participation,” p. 269

[62] Ibid.

[63] Ibid.

[64] Ibid. p. 271

[65] Ibid. p. 274

[66] Ibid. p. 276

[67] The term “voluntary discussion networks” is take from Dietram A. Scheufele, Matthew C. Nisbet, Dominique Brossard, and Erik C. Nisbet, “Social Structure and Citizenship: Examining the Impacts of Social Setting, Network Heterogeneity, and Information Variables on Political Participation,” Political Communication, 2004, pp. 315-338

[68] Dietram A. Scheufele, Matthew C. Nisbet, Dominique Brossard, and Erik C. Nisbet, “Social Structure and Citizenship: Examining the Impacts of Social Setting, Network Heterogeneity, and Information Variables on Political Participation,” Political Communication, 2004, p. 332

[69] Ibid.

[70] Ibid.

[71] Scott D. McClurg, “Social Networks and Political Participation: The Role of Social Interaction in Explaining Political Participation,” Political Research Quarterly, December 2003, p. 451

[72] Ibid.

[73] Ibid.

[74] Ibid. p. 458

[75] Scheufele, et al, “Social Structure and Citizenship: Examining the Impacts of Social Setting, Network Heterogeneity, and Information Variables on Political Participation,” p. 319

[76] Brain Martin and W. Varney, “Nonviolence and Communication,” Journal of Peace Research, March 2003, p. 218

[77] Ibid. p. 219

[78] Ibid.

[79] Ibid.

[80] Aaron Stuvland, “Window on the World: Profiles of Key Democracy and Good Governance NGOs/Agencies,” Development, Palgrave Macmillan, 2007, http://www.palgrave-journals.com/development/journal/v50/n1/pdf/1100329a.pdf

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