Given the profound impact of social media on civic activism, as demonstrated by the #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo movements, the current study aimed to examine the factors that influence the public to engage in civic activism on social media platforms.
This study used the responses from 4,316 social media users who participated in the 2018 American Trends Survey (Wave 35) conducted by Pew Research Center. The dataset was analyzed using hierarchical regression.
The results suggest that respondents who were younger, female, White and liberal were more likely to participate in activism-related behaviors, such as using hashtags, changing profile pictures and participating in groups with shared interests in political and social issues. Respondents' engagement in online civic activism increased particularly when they had a strong motive for expressing and sharing their opinions. In contrast, external online political efficacy – the belief that social media influences policymaking and decision makers – was not significantly associated with activism engagement on social media.
This study identified key demographic characteristics of social media users who participate in online civic activism. In addition, the findings extend previous lines of inquiry by examining and assessing the impact of external online political efficacy and opinion expression motive. We conclude that individuals engage in civic activism on social media mainly because they find it important to express views on political and social issues and to find others who share these views, as opposed to thinking that social media can be used to exert influence on policy decisions.
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