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  • Publication
    Between Usefulness and Ease of Use : Social Media Acceptance among Swiss Parliamentarians
    For many years, the Internet has been heralded as a boon to citizen participation in political decision-making (White, 1997). Research has been quick to explore whether new technologies facilitate direct participation and create access for non-elite citizens (Stromer-Galley, 2000; Davis, 1999; Hacker, 1996). In fact, Internet use has repeatedly been found to be positively associated with political and civic participation (Moy et al., 2005; Boulianne, 2009). The emergence of social media has further energized the hope that the Web will boost political participation. Recent studies confirm that social media use positively impacts civic and political partici-pation (Towner & Dulio, 2011; Zhang et al., 2009; Vitak et al, 2011). An emerging stream of research analyzes the use of social media in political communication and campaigning (Bichard, 2006; Williamson, 2011; Towner & Dulio, 2011). These studies find an increasing use of social media, starting early in the new millennium, spreading from blogs to a wide range of platforms like wikis, social bookmarking, social networking and content sharing sites. In fact, integrating social media in political campaigns has largely become "business as usual" (Williamson, 2011, p. 60). Little research has been directed at the drivers of social media acceptance by politicians, though: what elements contribute to the use of social media in political communication, what factors stand in its way? Methodology and Results In late 2010, Switzerland held elections for both chambers of the national parliament, the "Nationalrat" and "Ständerat". In mid-2011, our research team conducted an online-survey, inviting all 246 members of parliament by e-mail. A questionnaire had been prepared in the three national languages (German, French and Italian), addressing the frequency and intensity of the participants' social media use and reasons for use. Furthermore, key drivers of social media acceptance were investigated, based on the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM3) as proposed by Venkatesh and Bala (2008). This model posits that the acceptance of specific technological applications (including intention to or actual use) is driven by the perceived usefulness and the perceived ease of use of the application (Davis 1989; Davis & Venkatesh, 1996). A total of 117 parliamentarians filled out the questionnaire (response rate of 48%). A first analysis of the data found significant differences between active users and non-users of social media. Aside from current behavioral patterns and intentions, these groups differ in their playfulness, i.e. their approach to the use of new technologies. Accordingly, those who actively engage in social media rate the perceived enjoyment of their use significantly higher. A closer look at the drivers of social media acceptance reveals that perceived useful-ness and (to a lesser degree) perceived ease of use strongly impact social media use. All of the drivers included in our model exhibit significant explanatory power when analyzing for perceived usefulness and ease of use. Among the drivers of perceived usefulness, output quality and job relevance most clearly characterize user perceptions. Among the drivers of perceived ease of use, anxiety and perceived enjoyment exhibit the strongest discriminatory power.