Contemporary concerns that the Internet might lead to political apathy are based on suggestions that people would use the Internet for entertainment purposes rather than news consumption. However, what if someone stumbles upon news when surfing the Internet? Would this incidental news exposure online be helpful in promoting citizens' political engagement? This study tests whether and how incidental news exposure (INE) and relative entertainment use (REU) on the Internet are associated with political participation. Drawing from US national data, results revealed a significant and positive relationship between INE and offline and online political participation while REU was negatively associated with offline and online political participation. More importantly, the role of INE in facilitating citizens' online political participation was stronger for those who consume less entertainment online, indicating that incidental news exposure may increase existing gaps in political participation between people who prefer news and people who prefer entertainment online.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
- Human-Computer Interaction