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Deliberation or Small Talk? Motivations for Public Discussion and their Effects on Civic Engagement
Unformatted Document Text:  Motivations for Public Discussion other relationships and variables in the model. In addition, SEM allowed us to quantify both direct and indirect relationships between motivations, frequency of discussion online and offline, and civic engagement. Before fitting the theorized model (see Figure 1) to the data set, a residualized covariance matrix among the key endogenous variables (i.e., motivations, discussion frequency and civic participation) was created with a partial correlation matrix controlling for the other variables (i.e., demographics, news use and network size). By using the residualized covariance matrix as input in the estimation of the structural model, the results will already be taking into account the influence of the control variables. The regression analyses were performed in SPSS 18.0, while the SEM was estimated using Mplus 6.0 (Muthén & Muthén, 1998-2010). <INSERT FIGURE 1> Results Our first two hypotheses suggest that civic motivations for discussion leads to more frequent conversations about public affairs, and that this relationship applies to both face-to-face (H1) and online interactions (H2). To test these predictions, we estimated hierarchical regression models separately for interpersonal discussion and online discussion. As shown in Table 3, both models had a fairly strong predictive power, explaining 48% of the variance in interpersonal discussion and 44% of the variance in online discussion. Motivations, in particular, accounted for 13% and 9% of incremental variance in interpersonal and online discussion, respectively. Most importantly, civic motivations contributed positively and significantly to face-to-face conversations about public affairs ( = .346, β p < .001), and the same was true for online forms of discussion ( = .204, β p < .001). These results strongly support H1 and H2, as they confirm that public discussions are motivated by civic-oriented goals, such as individuals’ desire to learn information, express an opinion and persuade others. 12

Authors: Valenzuela, Sebastian., Jeong, Sun Ho. and Gil de Zuniga, Homero.
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Motivations for Public Discussion
other relationships and variables in the model. In addition, SEM allowed us to quantify both direct 
and indirect relationships between motivations, frequency of discussion online and offline, and 
civic engagement. Before fitting the theorized model (see Figure 1) to the data set, a residualized  
covariance matrix among the key endogenous variables (i.e., motivations, discussion frequency 
and   civic   participation)   was   created   with   a   partial   correlation   matrix   controlling   for   the   other 
variables (i.e., demographics, news use and network size). By using the residualized covariance 
matrix as input in the estimation of the structural model, the results will already be taking into 
account the influence of the control variables. The regression analyses were performed in SPSS 
18.0, while the SEM was estimated using Mplus 6.0 (Muthén & Muthén, 1998-2010).
<INSERT FIGURE 1>
Results
Our first two hypotheses suggest that civic motivations for discussion leads to more 
frequent conversations about public affairs, and that this relationship applies to both face-to-face 
(H1) and online interactions (H2). To test these predictions, we estimated hierarchical regression 
models separately for interpersonal discussion and online discussion. As shown in Table 3, both 
models had a fairly strong predictive power, explaining 48% of the variance in interpersonal 
discussion and 44% of the variance in online discussion. Motivations, in particular, accounted for 
13% and 9% of incremental variance in interpersonal and online discussion, respectively. Most 
importantly, civic motivations contributed positively and significantly to face-to-face 
conversations about public affairs (  = .346, 
β
p < .001), and the same was true for online forms of 
discussion (  = .204, 
β
p < .001). These results strongly support H1 and H2, as they confirm that 
public discussions are motivated by civic-oriented goals, such as individuals’ desire to learn 
information, express an opinion and persuade others.
12


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