Perceptions of Social Media for Politics: Testing the Slacktivism Hypothesis

Nojin Kwak, Daniel S. Lane, Brian E. Weeks, Dam Hee Kim, Slgi S. Lee, Sarah Bachleda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Americans’ views of political activity on social media range from exuberant to exasperated. But do perceptions of social media actually influence citizens’ online and offline political behaviors as suggested by the so-called “Slacktivism hypothesis?” In the present study, we undertake a more careful examination of this question by testing a theoretical model in which perceiving participation on social media as an easy or impactful means of engaging in politics encourages political expression on social media, which in turn increases offline political participation. Using panel survey data collected during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, we show that positive perceptions of social media indirectly increase offline political participation, through the influence of political expression on social media. However, we find no such positive indirect effects for those with politically diverse networks or for younger people. Implications for reconceptualizing the relationship between perceptions of social media and political participation are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)197-221
Number of pages25
JournalHuman Communication Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2018


  • Age
  • Network Heterogeneity
  • Perceptions
  • Political Expression
  • Political Participation
  • Slacktivism
  • Social Media
  • Spillover

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Anthropology
  • Linguistics and Language


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