What can come of just hanging out? : the power of politically oriented social groups
How can groups affect the political activity of their members? Are specific calls to action necessary, or can social connections inspire political engagement simply through exposure to others who engage in activity? This study seeks to answer these questions through the examination of the group Drinking Liberally, a politically focused social group which organizes happy hours through its chapters nationwide. It begins by looking at the role that amateur citizens can play in today's political environment, and how that role has evolved over time. Next, the social psychological theories which underlie group interaction and psychological change are discussed. The theories indicate that exposure to other group members who are more active should have an effect on the behavior of less active members. Finally, a survey was conducted of the members of Drinking Liberally to determine both their involvement in the group and their level of participation in certain political activities. Statistical analysis was conducted on the results of this survey, and it was found that there is a statistically significant connection between the length of one's membership in the group and the level of political activity that a member engages in. This supports the notion that simple social interaction with other politically like minded individuals some of whom are more active than others can raise the level of activity of less active members of the group. This is a very good reason to encourage the creation of such groups, in an effort to create a more engaged citizenry.
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