In an ideal democracy, many voices are expressed and heard. In US American democracy, this ideal has not yet been realized; marginalized groups, including Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), women and gender minorities, and those with low socioeconomic status have been systematically excluded from equal participation in politics. Although the Internet brought optimistic predictions that its openness was intrinsically more inclusive and democratic, research demonstrated that the early elites of the Internet era looked a lot like pre-Internet elites. While the expression of opinions proliferated online, traditional inequalities—both in whose voices were heard online and in how that attention transcended into offline political action—remained. However, there are reasons to believe that new forms of political communication and participation enabled by social media are shifting this imbalance. A growing body of evidence suggests that social media, especially Twitter, may be shifting the balance of who has voice and influence in the public sphere, allowing ordinary citizens greater access to influence mainstream politics. This research examines how Twitter has changed political voice and attention dynamics, and in turn, how these changes translate to offline political behavior, including voting and making campaign donations in the 2020 US presidential election. This research will demonstrate whether and how Twitter has changed how marginalized groups experience political voice, attention, and participation in the United States.
Brooke Foucault Welles
Associate Professor, Northeastern University