Rüdiger Schmitt-Beck, Christian Mackenrodt
Social networks and mass media as mobilizers and demobilizers: A study of turnout at a German local election

Electoral Studies, 2010: 29, issue 3, pp. 392-404
ISSN: 0261-3794

This paper explores the impact of informal communication in voters’ social networks and the formal communication of the mass media on individuals’ propensity to take part in elections. Analyzing survey data from a recent local election in Germany it shows how both forms of communication may not only mobilize, but also demobilize voters. On the whole, personal communication appears more influential than mass communication. The media’s effects are generally weaker than those of social networks. Moreover, they are mediated by attitudes, while social networks have strong direct effects. These originate mainly from information conveyed through personal contact with voters and abstainers in one’s immediate social environment. Social voting norms are only influential, if they originate from persons’ families and are in favor of electoral participation.