Around election time I always try to hector you guys to go canvassing or make calls for politicians you like because it’s the off-line action that really matters. Reading Twitter and political blogs isn’t activism. That’s not to say it’s completely useless. You can learn a lot about politics from reading political blogs – certainly more than from reading newspapers, I like to think.
But just teaching yourself a lot of stuff about politics won’t do anything to change politics unless you actually take the information you read and talk to your friends and acquaintances about it.
If you read this blog and other blogs, be the annoying “political friend” and get people talking about this stuff. Make them think. Make it relate to people’s daily experiences. So even when it’s not election time, you can pre-canvass your friends by talking to them about politics, and priming them for civic participation later on.
Casey Klofstad has a new study showing political conversations really do work to increase civic and political participation.:
My basic research finding is quite striking: students who were assigned to dorms in 2003 where they were exposed to political discussion by their randomly-assigned roommate became more likely to join civic-minded student organizations such as student government, partisan political organizations, and community volunteer organizations. This effect lasted throughout their four years of college. More recently, I surveyed these same individuals during the 2012 election, and my newly collected data reveal that study participants who were exposed to political discussion as first-year college students are still more likely to be active civically nearly ten years later.
Why does the relationship between discussion and participation last for so long? Civic participation, like any other behavior, is habitual. This is why voter turnout increases with age. The more frequently someone votes, the more likely he or she is to do it again in the future. My study participants probably do not think back to conversations they had with their freshman roommate when they are contemplating whether to participate in new civic activities.But even without their conscious realization, the boost in participation that many students experienced from discussing politics with their roommates put them on a pathway in life that includes repeated willingness to get involved in community life and politics.