New research on online forum participation

New research out this year on Common Ground for Action forums was featured in a special issue of the American Political Science Association’s flagship journal Political Studies.

“Demographics and Equal (?) Voice” examines 275 CGA forums with over 1600 participants, making it the largest and most dynamic study of online deliberation, online participation and equity in deliberation. Their key findings include:

  • The digital divide when it comes to online deliberation might not be as true as we assume it to be. Participants ages 31-64 posted nearly 20% more chats than other age categories. Those 20-31 years of age has less chats, but those chats were longer than those of older age groups.
  • Women chat less than men, but are more likely to offer longer posts than men.
  • The removal of most visual demographic cues counters some basics barriers to equal participation by marginal groups often found in in-person deliberative forums.
  • Participants are less likely to interrupt each other and to more nimbly able to navigate synchronous turn-taking, thus making CGA forums fairly coherent. The active moderator ensures that different strands of argument are considered, even if they arrive out of sequence.
  • The unique visuals encourage people to “see” others’ views and to engage with disagreements more effectively.

The article is co-authored by Ryan Kennedy of the University of Houston and Amy Lee, director of Ohio State University’s Institute for Democratic Engagement and Accountability and Project Manager at Every Voice Engaged Foundation, with additional authorship from Anand Sokhey, Claire Abernathy, Kevin M Esterling, David MJ Lazer, William Minozzi, and Michael A Neblo.