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Tackling COVID-19 from below: civic participation among online neighbourhood network users during the COVID-19 pandemic

Cato Waeterloos (Department of Communication Sciences, imec-mict-Ghent University, University of Ghent, Ghent, Belgium)
Jonas De Meulenaere (Department of Communication Sciences, imec-mict-Ghent University, University of Ghent, Ghent, Belgium)
Michel Walrave (Department of Communication Sciences, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium)
Koen Ponnet (Department of Communication Sciences, imec-mict-Ghent University, University of Ghent, Ghent, Belgium)

Online Information Review

ISSN: 1468-4527

Article publication date: 19 March 2021

Abstract

Purpose

Following the outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), many forms of bottom-up civic action emerged as ways to collectively “flatten the curve” and tackle the crisis. In this paper, the authors examine to what extent local online and offline social integration contributes to civic participation, above and beyond typical predictors such as news consumption and civic talk.

Design/methodology/approach

An online survey was administered among 7,137 users of the online neighbourhood network (ONN) Hoplr in Flanders (i.e. the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium) from 8 May to 18 May 2020. Regression analyses were used to examine how local social integration, in addition to news consumption, civic talk and political antecedents, predict different types of civic participation.

Findings

The results show consistent positive associations between news consumption, civic talk and civic participation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, the role of political antecedents varied across different forms of civic participation. Further, the results point to the importance of both offline and online local social integration in explaining civic participation.

Originality/value

This study provides much-needed insight in the societal and democratic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. The results confirm the importance of local social integration in explaining civic participation, while also advancing theoretical understanding of more established predictors of civic participation, such as news consumption and interpersonal communication.

Peer review

The peer review history for this article is available at https://publons.com/publon/10.1108/OIR-08-2020-0379.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This work was funded by the Research Fund of Ghent University (Grantscode BOF.STG.2018.0002.01). The interpretation of the data, the writing of the article and the decision to submit the article were the sole responsibility of the authors and were not influenced by the funding institution.

Citation

Waeterloos, C., De Meulenaere, J., Walrave, M. and Ponnet, K. (2021), "Tackling COVID-19 from below: civic participation among online neighbourhood network users during the COVID-19 pandemic", Online Information Review, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/OIR-08-2020-0379

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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