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The contribution of media consumption to civic participation

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A national UK survey (N = 1017) examined the association between media consumption and three indicators of civic participation – likelihood of voting, interest in politics, and actions taken in response to a public issue of concern to the respondent. Multiple regression analysis was used to test the variance explained by media use variables after first controlling for demographic, social and political predictors of each indicator of participation. Media use significantly added to explaining variance in civic participation as follows. In accounting for voting, demographic and political/social factors mattered, but so too did some media habits (listening to the radio and engagement with the news). Interest in politics was accounted for by political/social factors and by media use, especially higher news engagement and lower media trust. However, taking action on an issue of concern was accounted for only by political/social factors, with the exception that slightly fewer actions were taken by those who watched more television. These findings provided little support for the media malaise thesis, and instead were interpreted as providing qualified support for the cognitive/motivational theory of news as a means of engaging the public.

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