This paper examines the utility of online discussion forums as effective means of engaging citizens in the political process.
Public authorities are increasingly using information and communication technology (ICT) to engage citizens. In this experimental study we analyse the effect of participation in an online asynchronous discussion forum on the direction and magnitude of policy preferences relating to youth anti-social behaviour amongst a large sample of online panel members. This is compared to the effect of participation on a standard online consultation platform. We find that engagement in online discussion forums can lead to modest shifts in preferences amongst those who choose to contribute to the discussion. However, this is self-selecting minority who make little use of background information. Thus questions remain about the utility of online discussion forums as effective means of engaging citizens in the political process.