Online Political Activity in Canada: The Hype and the Facts

Article 2 / 9 , Vol 37 No 4 (Winter)

Online Political Activity in Canada: The Hype and the Facts

How do Canadians engage with the political content provided by governments, political parties and parliamentarians in Canada? Employing data from the 2014 Canadian Online Citizenship Survey, this article explores how Canadians use digital communications to become informed about, discuss and/or participate in politics. The results suggest that less than half of respondents use the Internet to engage in Canadian politics and while governments, politicians and parties have made extensive forays into cyberspace, politics is a minor online activity for Canadians.

Over the last two decades, there has been a revolution in communication technology with the widespread adoption of computer networks and digital technologies. There are very few areas of society, economics and culture that have remained untouched by these technologies. Not surprisingly, digital technologies have also infiltrated the world of Canadian politics. They have changed how representative institutions communicate and respond to citizens. In the mid-1990s, government departments, political parties and parliamentarians across Canada began creating websites in order to inform and, potentially, engage citizens. More recently, social media, including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, have become mainstays of political communication in Canada. Indeed, as of October 2014, 80 per cent of federal Members of Parliament were using Twitter. One can also follow tweets of the Senate of Canada and the Library of Parliament. While we know much about the online presences of governments, political parties and parliamentarians in Canada,1 less is known about the extent to which Canadians engage with the political content provided by these different actors.2