The importance of political context for understanding civic engagement: A longitudinal analysis

Alina Oxendine, John L. Sullivan, Eugene Borgida, Eric Riedel, Melinda Jackson, Jessica Dial

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


We contend that political context is important to consider when analyzing social capital and that context has an important but neglected impact on understanding the consequences of civic activity. Our focus is on the influence of rural, local leadership in two Minnesota communities and policies that these elites have developed to bring Internet connectivity to their citizens. One city developed a community electronic network and the other opted for an individualistic, entrepreneurial approach to information technology. Using a quasi-experimental research design and four-wave panel data, we find that elite policy approaches interact with civic activity to predict technology use among citizens, even long after the policies' initial implementation. In the city with a community network, residents who are integrated into civic life are able to harness these political resources to become more technologically sophisticated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-67
Number of pages37
JournalPolitical Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Implementation of the project began in 1997 with funding from the Blandin Foundation, a local philanthropic organization, and the Telecommunications and Information Infrastructure Assistance Program (TIIAP) of the U.S.

Funding Information:
This research was supported in part by grants from the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs at the University of Minnesota, NSF Grant #SBR9619147, funding from the University of Minnesota’s College of Liberal Arts to Eugene Borgida and John L. Sullivan, assistance from the Carlson Chair in American Politics to John L. Sullivan and assistance from the Fester-Lampert Chair in Urban and Regional Affairs to Eugene Borgida. Alina Oxendine was supported in part by a 2003–2004 Rural Poverty Research Institute Dissertation Fellowship and a 2004–2005 Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship from the University of Minnesota Graduate School.


  • Civic engagement
  • Electronic network
  • Social capital
  • Technology


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