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To what extent does media coverage of grass-root citizen activity promote citizen activism?

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  1. The hypothesis
  2. The experimental design to test the hypothesis
  3. Positive correlation and negative correlation

The American citizen has evolved as a well-behaved political spectator, keen towards national affairs. The combination of an authoritative presentation style on behalf of the network news organizations and a lack of thorough coverage on citizen activist groups has cultivated a pacified audience that is both content to watch the world turn at a distance and unaware of how capable they are in affecting that world. I believe that this political disengagement is in large part due to (or at least amplified by) the manner in which network news is conferred onto the public and therefore my hypothesis is that as viewers become exposed to more coverage of citizen organizations and activist groups, they will in turn feel and eventually become more involved and active in the realm of politics. The experimental design to test this hypothesis will examine if more coverage of active, ordinary citizens on the evening news will lead to a surge in political engagement.

[...] The weaknesses of this design include the fact that it is very difficult to objectively measure just how a citizen really is. What if one person donates $50,000 to a citizen organization, but never votes and never gets personally involved? How would this person compare to someone who is in many activist organizations but never donates any money? Despite this, we would still be able to observe changes in behavior in each individual case, and this should be sufficient to test our initial proposals. [...]


[...] The participants would be asked the same questions as above, but they would also be asked the following: How many elections have you voted in (congressional and presidential) in that past 8 years? How many activist groups have you joined, or been active in, in the past 5 years? How much money have you donated to a citizen organization or interest group in the past 5 years? How many city/town hall meetings have you attending in the past year? How many non-candidate votes (i.e. propositions, etc.) have you participated in, in the past year? These questions will be asked of the sequential experiment participants periodically over the course of one year. [...]

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