Christopher Cooper received an Insight Development Grant ($36,308) from the SSHRC for this project The Online Political Activity of Public Sector Employees.
This project will investigate the online political activity of public sector employees. Over the last few years many governments from around the world have adopted regulations limiting public sector employees’ democratic right to be politically active online. Because actions through social media are highly visible, easily shared, and relatively permanent, some governments are concerned that political comments on social media may threaten public servants’ reputation as politically impartial employees. Yet while limiting the political rights of public sector employees is a major issue for any country whose political system is founded upon the rule of the people, we know very little about public sector employees’ online political activity. Using survey data collected during the last three national elections in Australia – a country where impartiality is a central tenet of the public service – this project will provide a more holistic understanding of public sector employees’ online political activity. Specifically, it will examine: (1) whether public sector employees are more politically active online than private sector employees; (2) whether public sector employees in supervisory positions are less politically active online than those in non-supervisory positions; (3) whether public sector employees are less likely to be politically active online when such actions are explicitly partisan; and (4), whether these behaviours have changed over time, alongside the growth of social media.