SMU SealThe Impact of the Internet on Popular Democracy in the United States

Gabriel J. Gubash

In Partial Fulfillment

of the Requirements for the Degree of

Master of Science in Telecommunications

Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

Minneapolis, Minnesota

May, 1997


A master's thesis is never the work of just one person. The success of this project dependeded on the hard work of a great many people. I would really like to express my appreciation to Dr. Don James, Randy Young, and Linda Frisbee. Their efforts and feedback on the many drafts of this work have been invaluable. Ann Gallagher's technical writing expertise and advice provided a great deal of help in refining some of the rough edges. I would also like to express my appreciation to a very special person in my life, Julie Jaszkowiak. Her advice, technical expertise, and mentorship was greatly appreciated not only in writing this thesis but in the entire master's program at Saint Mary's. I would also like to express my deep appreciation for the founders of the Master of Science in Telecommunications Program at Saint Mary's University. This program provided me with the opportunity to obtain an advanced degree while allowing me to keep my day job and other commitments.


The concepts of majority rule, freedom of the press and informed opinion, equality, inclusive nature, active participation, and accurate information have been used in the study of the impact of the Internet on popular democracy in the United States. All methodology used for this research focused on issues that relate to these six concepts. A literature review was conducted which helped explain these concepts. On-line observations were then conducted which detailed user involvement in these areas. An Internet User Survey was also conducted. The results from these methods provided the data used to provide a summary and clarification of United States citizens' use of the Internet and an analysis of how citizen's use of the Internet fosters or hinders popular democracy.

Table of Contents, Title Page, Colloquium Appoval Form, Thesis Approval Form, Acknowledgements, Abstract, List of Figures, List of Tables

Chapter 1 Introduction

Problem Statement, Methodology, Thesis Objectives, Significance of the Thesis, Limitations and Scope, Assumptions, Definition of Terms

Chapter 2 Literature Review

Introduction, Popular Democracy Defined, The Computer's Impact on Democracy, The Internet and Democracy, Advantages of On-line Democracy, Problems with On-line Democracy, What the Future Holds, Renewed Direct Democracy, The Electronic Town Meeting

Chapter 3 Methodology

Introduction, Methodology Overview, Literature Review, Observation of Internet Sites, Internet User Survey

Chapter 4 Results

Introduction, Internet User Survey Results, Observation of Internet Sites, Summary and Clarification of United States Citizens' Use of the Internet, How Citizens' Use of the Internet Fosters or Hinders Popular Democracy

Chapter 5 Discussion

Summary, Recommendations for Further Study, Conclusions


Appendix A The Internet and Democracy Survey

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