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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 The purpose of this study is two-fold. First, it explores the motivations people have for engaging both online and interpersonal discussions, including instrumental and relational goals. Second, and most importantly, it investigates how these motivations are related to civic participation. To do so, it uses data from the second wave of a panel survey conducted by the authors on a national sample of U.S. residents. Goals of Discussing Public Affairs Communication scholars have sought to investigate reasons why individuals engage in face-to-face and mediated forms of interactions. A large corpus of research in this area identifies two distinct goals that may explain motivations for citizen communication about public affairs: instrumental and relational (Knapp & Daly, 2002). The instrumental or strategic approach suggests that people’s reasons for interacting with others are largely functional and purposive, driven by the outcome of exchanging information or opinions, while the relational goal points us to everyday conversations that are more focused on the relationship itself rather than what people may achieve by being involved in the dialogues (Guerrero, Andersen, & Afifi, 2010). Instrumental goals of interpersonal communication may be the closest fit to civic reasons for public discussion implicit in political communication scholarship. Those relying on the premises of deliberative democratic theories (Gastil, 2008; Habermas, 1996; Fishkin, 1992, 1995) have envisioned “rational” citizens engaging in purposive and goal-oriented discussions, driven by instrumental reasons for communication with each other. Grounded on this tradition, previous research has placed considerable importance on specific instrumental goals for discussion, such as gaining information, forming opinions, expressing oneself and persuading others (Conover, Searing, & Crewe, 2002; Eveland, Morey, & Hively, 2009; Huckfeldt & Sprague, 1987; Huckfeldt & Sprague, 1991; Rojas, 2008). Contemporary research in this area has demonstrated implicit or 4

Authors: Valenzuela, Sebastian., Jeong, Sun Ho. and Gil de Zuniga, Homero.
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Motivations for Public Discussion
The purpose of this study is two-fold. First, it explores the motivations people have for 
engaging both online and interpersonal discussions, including instrumental and relational goals. 
Second, and most importantly, it investigates how these motivations are related to civic 
participation. To do so, it uses data from the second wave of a panel survey conducted by the 
authors on a national sample of U.S. residents.
Goals of Discussing Public Affairs
Communication scholars have sought to investigate reasons why individuals engage in 
face-to-face and mediated forms of interactions. A large corpus of research in this area identifies 
two distinct goals that may explain motivations for citizen communication about public affairs: 
instrumental and relational (Knapp & Daly, 2002). The instrumental or strategic approach suggests 
that people’s reasons for interacting with others are largely functional and purposive, driven by the 
outcome of exchanging information or opinions, while the relational goal points us to everyday 
conversations that are more focused on the relationship itself rather than what people may achieve 
by being involved in the dialogues (Guerrero, Andersen, & Afifi, 2010).      
Instrumental goals of interpersonal communication may be the closest fit to civic reasons 
for public discussion implicit in political communication scholarship. Those relying on the 
premises of deliberative democratic theories (Gastil, 2008; Habermas, 1996; Fishkin, 1992, 1995) 
have envisioned “rational” citizens engaging in purposive and goal-oriented discussions, driven by 
instrumental reasons for communication with each other. Grounded on this tradition, previous 
research has placed considerable importance on specific instrumental goals for discussion, such as 
gaining information, forming opinions, expressing oneself and persuading others (Conover, 
Searing, & Crewe, 2002; Eveland, Morey, & Hively, 2009; Huckfeldt & Sprague, 1987; Huckfeldt 
& Sprague, 1991; Rojas, 2008). Contemporary research in this area has demonstrated implicit or 
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