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The European Journal of Communication Research

Ed. by Averbeck-Lietz, Stefanie / d'Haenens, Leen

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Pathways to political (dis-)engagement: motivations behind social media use and the role of incidental and intentional exposure modes in adolescents’ political engagement

Raffael Heiss / Johannes Knoll / Jörg Matthes
Published Online: 2019-04-12 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/commun-2019-2054


Based on the Social Media Political Participation Model (SMPPM), this study investigates the relationship between four key motivations behind the use of Social Network Sites (SNS) and political engagement among adolescents. We collected our data in a paper-pencil survey with 15- to 20-year-old adolescents (N=294), a highly underexplored group, which is most active on social media. We theorize that adolescents’ user motivations are related to political engagement via two modes of exposure: The intentional mode, which is related to active information seeking, and the incidental mode, in which adolescents run into politics only by accident. We found that political information and self-expression motivations were positively related to political engagement via the intentional mode. By contrast, entertainment motivations were negatively related to offline, but not to online engagement via the incidental mode.

Keywords: SMPPM; adolescents; political engagement; user motivations; social media; intentional exposure; incidental exposure


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Published Online: 2019-04-12

Citation Information: Communications, ISSN (Online) 1613-4087, ISSN (Print) 0341-2059, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/commun-2019-2054.

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