Link between internet speed and political activism revealed — Analysis

A new study has found that peoples’ political activism seems to inversely correlate to how fast their internet connections are

Researchers from Cardiff University and Sapienza University of Rome have concluded that the faster someone’s internet speed is, the less likely they are to be involved in their communities through volunteering, politics, or other forms of civic engagement. 

“We observed that civic participation and the form of engagement in the activities of voluntary organisations and political participation declined with proximity to the network,”Fabio Sabatini is a co-author of this study. It was published by Journal of Public Economics. 

For example, participation in political parties fell 19% for every 1.8 km that a person lives near a telecommunications exchange centre, which gives them better internet access. People with faster internet access saw a 10% drop in volunteering for social services. 

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Researchers used information from communications regulator Ofcom on exchange centers and various internet speeds and cross-referenced that data with answers given in the British Household Panel Survey and the UK Household Longitudinal Study on peoples’ civic engagement. 

For every 1.8 km a person traveled to their local exchange, there was a 6% drop in social participation between 2010 and 2017. 

While political party participation took the most damage, many areas experienced a substantial impact. The survey shows that participation in trade unions dropped by just 3.6%, but volunteering for organizations providing social and environmental services fell 7.8%. 

Sabatini theorizes in the study that Britain’s lack of public engagement could be directly tied to the rise of populism in its politics. 

“The rise of populism has been linked to a decline in interest in public affairs and we thought that, being less politically and socially active, people may be less capable of interpreting political phenomena and understanding the complexity of the management of public affairs,”The researcher stated. 

What the study found was not significantly affected by the speed of one’s internet access is personal engagement with family and friends, which the study concluded “seems resilient to technological change.” 

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