Study: Online groups could improve civic participation, particularly among younger adults

Wednesday, October 31st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ The Internet may help reverse a decades-long decline in civic participation, particularly among younger adults, according to a survey released Wednesday.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project study did not attempt to determine whether such a reversal had taken place yet.

``One of the big concerns that have existed since the mid-1960s is that young people were withdrawing from civic life,'' said Lee Rainie, the project's director. ``It was just striking to see this technology that is enormously popular with young people is a vehicle by which they are engaging in the community at some level.''

Overall, 84 percent of Internet users in the United States have used the Internet to contact or get information from a group.

Rainie acknowledged some of the groups ``are pretty frivolous, built around rock stars or popular TV shows or sports teams.'' Still, he said, younger adults initially drawn by hobby or fan groups later migrate to other online communities.

Professional and hobby groups were the most popular, each used by 50 percent of Internet users. Sports fan groups followed at 31 percent. Entertainment fan groups were used by 29 percent, as were local community groups or associations. Other popular groups involved lifestyles or medical conditions.

Totals exceed 100 percent because users can belong to multiple groups. The average was four.

The survey was based on telephone interviews with 3,002 adults, including 1,697 Internet users, between Jan. 17 and Feb. 11. The margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.