Article Information


Media Use and Political Participation in China: Taking Three National Large-N Surveys as Examples


Hongna Miao(, China)


In the age of continuous media change and the coexistence of multiple forms of media, the relationship between the public’s media use and political participation is an urgent area of study. This paper makes use of large national sample surveys from 2002, 2011, and 2015, summarizes the change of the public’s media use by descriptive statistics analysis, and finds that while the Internet has become an important communication channel, the use of Internet for political information and political participation is still overestimated. Compared to the weak impact of different media channels for political information on political participation, the frequency of media exposure and Internet use play a significant role in political participation. Because of the negative effect of the frequency of Internet use on political participation, the democratization function of the Internet needs to be treated with caution. This paper describes media use and its roles in contemporary China, analyzes the impact of media use on political participation, and extends the cross-cultural application of the theory of political communication.


media use, Internet, political participation

Full Text

View Full Text


Almond, G. A., & Verba, S. (1963). Civic culture: Political attitude and democracy in five nations. Boston, MA: Little Brown Company.

Bakker, T. P., & de Vreese, C. H. (2011). Good news for the future? Young people, Internet use, and political participation. Communication Research, 38(4), 451-70.

Bennett, S., Flickinger, R., & Rhine, S. (2000). Political talk over here, over there, over time. British Journal of Political Science, 1, 99-119.

Besley, J. C. (2006). The role of entertainment television and its interactions with individual values in explaining political participation. The Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics, 11(2), 41 –63.

Boulianne S. (2015). Social media use and participation: A meta-analysis of current research. Information, Communication & Society, 18(5), 524–538.

Broockman, D. E., & Green, D. P. (2014). Do online advertisements increase political candidates’ name recognition or favorability? Evidence from randomized field experiments. Political Behavior, 36(2), 263-89.

Bucy, E. P., & Gregson, K. S. (2001). Media participation: A legitimizing mechanism of mass democracy. New Media & Society, 3(3), 357-380.

Cappella, J. N., & Jamieson, H. K. (1997). Spiral of cynicism: The press and the public good. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Chan, M. (2014). Exploring the contingent effect of political efficacy and partisan strength on the relationship between online news use and democratic engagement. International Journal of Communication, 8, 1195-1215.

Chan, J. M., & Zhou, B. (2011). Expressive behaviors across discursive spaces and issue types. Asian Journal of Communication, 21(2), 150-166.

Chang, C. (2006). The relationship between Internet use, political participation and social capital. Mass Media Research, 86, 45-90.

Eveland, W. P., & Dunwoody, S. (2003). Examining information processing on the World Wide Web using think aloud protocols. Media Psychology, 2(3), 219-244.

Eveland, W. P., & Scheufele, D. A. (2003). Connecting news media use with gaps in knowledge and participation. Political Communication, 17(3), 215-237.

Feezell, J. T. (2017). Agenda setting through social media: The importance of incidental news exposure and social filtering in the digital era. Political Research Quarterly, 71(2), 482-94.

Gui, Y., & Shi, W. (2009). Chengshi jiceng zhengzhi canyu dui zhengzhi gongxiaogan de yingxian: yixiang shizheng yanjiu [The impact of grass roots political participation in urban on political efficacy], Fudan zhengzhixue pinglun, 88-104.

Green, D. P., & Gerber, A. S. (2015). Get out the vote: How to increase voter turnout. Washington D.C.: Brookings Institution Press.

Hardy, B. W. & Scheufele, D. A. (2005). Examining differential gains from Internet use: Comparing the moderating role of talk & online interactions. Journal of Communication, 55(1), 71-84.

Huang, Y. H. C., Ao, S., Lu, Y., Ip, C., & Kao, L. (2017). How trust and dialogue shape political participation in mainland China. International Journal of Strategic Communication, 11(5), 395-414.

Huntington, S. P., & Nelson, J. M. (1976). No easy choice: Political participation in developing countries. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Jacobs, L. R., Cook, F. L., & Delli, C. M. (2009). Talking together: Public deliberation and political participation in America. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Jennings, M. T. & Zeitner, V. (2003). Internet use and civic engagement: A longitudinal analysis. Public Opinion Quarterly, 67(3), 311.

Kenski, K., & Stroud, N. J. (2006). Connections between Internet use and political efficacy, knowledge, and participation. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 50(2), 173-192.

Kim, Y., & Chen, H. T. (2015) Discussion network heterogeneity matters: Examining a moderated mediation model of social media use and civic engagement. International Journal of Communication, 9, 2344-2365.

Lee, F. L. F., & Chan, J. M. (2016). Digital media activities and mode of participation in a protest campaign: The case of the umbrella movement. Information, Communication & Society, 19(1), 4-22.

Lei, Y.-W. (2011). The political consequences of the rise of the Internet: Political beliefs and practices of Chinese netizens. Political Communication, 28(3), 291–322.

Liao, S., Zhang, G., & Li X., (2005). Lun Zhongguo chuanmei yu shehui minzhuhua Jincheng [Chinese communication and social democratization]. Xiandai Chuanbo, 1, 48-50.

Meyrowitz, J. (1985). No sense of place: The impact of electronic media on social behavior. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Nisbet, M. C., & Scheufele, D. A. (2004). Political talk as a catalyst for online citizenship. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 81(4), 877-896.

Norris, P. (1996). Does television erode social capital? A reply to Putnam. PS: Political Science and Politics, 29(3), 474-480.

Orum, A. M., & Dale, J. G. (2009). Introduction to political sociology: Power and participation in the modern world. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Putnam, Robert D. (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Robinson, M. J. (1976). Public affairs television and the growth of political malaise: The case of “the selling of the Pentagon.” American Political Science Review, 70(2), 409–432.

Shah, D. V. (1998). Civic engagement, interpersonal trust, and television use: An individual-level assessment of social capital. Political Psychology, 19(3), 469-496.

Shah, D. V., Cho, J., Eveland, W. P., Kwak, N. (2005). Information and expression in a digital age: Modeling Internet effects on civic participation. Communication Research, 32(5), 531-565.

Shao, P. (2005). Chuanboxue [Communication]. Beijing, China: Higher Education Press.

Stockmann, D., & Gallagher, M. E. (2011). Remote control: How the mass sustain authoritarian rule in China. Comparative Political Science, 44(4), 436-467.

Tang, M., & Huhe, N. (2014). Alternative framing: The effect of the Internet on political support in authoritarian China. International Political Science Review, 35(5), 559-576.

Tang, W. (2008). Gonggong guannian yu zhongguo zhengzhi bianqian [Public Opinion and Political Change in China]. (G. Hu, & D. Zhang, Trans.) Guangzhou, China: Zhongshan daxue chubanshe.

Tolbert, C. J., & McReal, R. S. (2003). Unraveling the effects of the Internet on political participation. Political Research Quarterly, 56(2), 175-185.

Tang, L., & Sampson, H. (2012). The Interaction between mass media and the Internet in non-democratic states: The case of China. Media, Culture & Society, 34(4), 457-471.

Verba, S., & Nie, N. (1972). Participation in America: Political democracy and social equality. New York, NY: Harper & Row.

Wang, H., & Ji, C. (2017). Hulianwang, zhengzhitaidu yu feizhiduhua zhengzhi canyu: Jiyu 1953 ming wangmin yangben de shizheng fenxi [Internet, political attitude and non-institutionalized political participation: An empirical analysis of 1953 netizen respondents]. Jingji shehui tizhi bijiao, 4, 45-55.

Wang, Mingsheng. (2012). Dangdai zhongguo zhengzhi canyu yanjiu [Study on political participation in contemporary China]. Nanjing, China: Nanjing daxue chubanshe.

Wang, S. (2013). Zhengzhi Xinren, renji xinren yu feichuantong zhengzhi canyu [Political trust, interpersonal trust and non-traditional political participation], Gonggong xingzheng pinglun, 2, 22-51.

Willnat, L. & Aw, A. J. (Eds.). (2014). Social media, culture and politics in Asia. New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Xiao, T., & Yi, S. (2016). Dangdai woguo dalu gongmin zhengzhi canyu de bianqian yu leixingxue tedian: Jiyu 2002 yu 2011 nian liangbo quanguo chouyang diaocha de fenxi [The transition and typological characteristics of political participation in contemporary mainland China based on two waves of nation-wide sample survey: 2002 and 2011]. Zhengzhixue yanjiu, 5, 97-111.

Zeng, F. (2018). The impact of social capital and media use on the political participation of urban residents. East Asian, 35, 23-41.

Zhang, Z. A, & Shen, F. (2012). Zhongguo shouzhong meijie shiyong de diqu chayi bijiao [A comparison of regional differences of media use among Chinese audiences]. Xinwen daxue, 116(6), 25–32.