This chapter addresses two of the most important questions of this book. The first question is whether the use of digital media and networks will lead to more or less political participation. The second question is whether the results of this participation lead to more or less democracy. The word ‘less’ is used because not all citizens have access to these media or they have insufficient skills in using them. The most widely used online and offline forms of political participation are discussed. We focus a great deal on social media use for political participation.
Current political participation research has a number of deficiencies. Overall, it focuses more on individual behaviors than on networking. It has a positive, instrumental bias in its conclusions, which often are spurious.
In fact, across many studies online participation has created small and positive effects for political participation overall. One realistic conclusion of this chapter is that, so far, online participation has created negligible effects on contemporary political systems and democracies.