Empirical Evidence from the Viennese Population
Alexander Prosser, Yan Guo, Jasmin Lenhart
University of Economics and Business Administration, Vienna
Augasse 2-6 A-1090 Vienna
Keywords: e-democracy, e-voting, e-participation, empirical survey.
Abstract: Systems for citizen participation have become technically feasible and are currently being developed. But
what are the preferences of the citizens and which factors determine their attitude towards e-democracy?
This paper reports the results of a representative survey in the Viennese population investigating the attitude
towards e-democracy, the relationship to the respondents’ current Internet usage and possible motives for e-
The Internet is increasingly used for citizen
participation and voting processes (for an
Introduction, see Prosser and Krimmer 2003, 2004).
The authors of such systems in many cases
implicitly assume that (i) citizens are interested in
electronic participation via the Internet and (ii) that
such systems are attractive to more or less all groups
of the population. Based on a representative survey
conducted among the Viennese population, this
paper attempts to clarify whether the population
actually is interested in electronic citizen
participation, whether this attitude depends on
demographic factors and where citizens would
prefer to use such systems. The questionnaire
distinguished between e-voting (e-elections,
referenda etc.) and e-participation (e-discussion and
exchange of opinions).
The survey was conducted in interviews with 300
persons over 15 years of age; the respondents were
representative for the Viennese population in terms
of age, sex and educational background following
the data published by Statistics Austria (2001); a X
test for goodness of fit was performed on a 95%
significance level.
Two main hypotheses of independence were used as
a starting point:
H1: The attitude towards e-voting and e-
participation, resp. is independent of sex, age and
H2: The perceived advantages and disadvantages of
electronic democracy are independent of sex, age
and education.
2.1 Attitude
Figure 1 shows the attitude towards e-voting and e-
participation. It is obvious that a considerably higher
number of respondents are interested in e-voting
(44% are either strongly interested or interested)
than in e-participation (14%).
Figure 1: The attitude towards e-participation and
e-participat ion
8 2,7 2,7 2,7
34 11,3 11,3 14,0
69 23,0 23,0 37,0
52 17,3 17,3 54,3
137 45,7 45,7 100,0
300 100,0 100,0
very interested
not interested
Frequency Percent Valid Percent
Cumu lative
54 18.0 18.0 18.0
78 26.0 26.0 44.0
60 20.0 20.0 64.0
29 9.7 9.7 73.7
79 26.3 26.3 100.0
300 100.0 100.0
very interested
not interested
Frequency Percent Valid Percent
Prosser A., Guo Y. and Lenhart J. (2006).
THE ATTITUDE TOWARDS E-DEMOCRACY - Empirical Evidence from the Viennese Population.
In Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems - SAIC, pages 201-204
DOI: 10.5220/0002458202010204
Before analysing the motives for this (lack of)
interest let us first explore its demographic
distribution. Pairwise X
tests for independence are
performed with sex, age and educational background
on the one hand and the interest in e-participation
and e-voting on the other. To facilitate the tests and
to avoind too small frequencies in some categories,
the variable age was summarized in 3 categories
(15-29, 30 - 49 and 50+), and the interest in e-
voting/e-participation was combined to three
categories (very interested/interested, moderately,
hardly/not interested). The results of the pair wise X
tests (95% significance level) for independence are
summarized in Figure 2.
Figure 2: The attitude towards e-participation/e-voting and
demographic factors.
The positive attitude towards e-voting is largely
independent of demographic factors, only age
proved to be a significant factor: Respondents over
50 years of age were significantly less interested in
e-voting, however, even in this age group one third
of the respondents are interested which runs against
the opinion that the older generation does not adopt
Internet services. With an increasing general Internet
penetration and over time this rate can be expected
to rise even higher. The picture is completely
different with e-participation. Not only is the general
attitude far less favourable, it is also strongly
fragmented: Summarizing, well educated, young
male citizens are interested in e-participation.
Possible explanations may be the unawareness of the
means and areas of application of e-participation,
time constraints, a preference to participate in
decision making rather than discussion and
deliberation. Hence, hypothesis H1 has to be
rejected for e-participation, but can be maintained
insofar as the interest in e-voting is independent of
sex and educational background.
2.2 Perceived Advantages and
Respondents were also asked about the perceived
advantages and disadvantages of e-democracy.
Starting from the hypothesis of independence, a
series of pairwise X
tests with sex, age and
education yielded the significant deviations, where
independence had to be rejected as depicted in
Figure 3 (95% significance level). None of the
perceived advantages/disadvantages showed any
significant dependence on the sex of the respondent.
The most important advantage as perceived by the
respondents is the independence of place and time,
where agreement is particularly high in the “middle”
age group and with a higher educational
background. A possible explanation could be the
increased professional (and also private) mobility of
the respondents which makes easier access to
democratic decision making interesting to them.
“Access to political information” scored second.
Interestingly only 17.3% are interested in obtaining
their information from politicians, 20% from other
citizens and 21.7% from experts (45.3% no
response). Neither this question nor “cost cuts in
public administration” showed any significant
deviations. The latter seems to indicate the high
awareness for public administrative expenditure in
general and for the cost-saving effects for e-
government in particular. It may also indicate that
little awareness exists for the costs of, for instance,
an e-voting system, which would cause additional
costs as the conventional paper-based election
system must remain in place. “Increased direct
democracy” scores 50% over all age groups but is
particularly strong in the age group of 15-29 (65%
(strong) agreement) thereby renouncing the
prejudice that this age group would not be interested
in politics. One may conclude that the interest may
be there, but the instrument to voice adequately this
interest is also needed.
Of all disadvantages a possible digital divide scores
highest; interestingly, the digital divide does not
seem to be automatically linked to a social divide
which scores much lower. The divide between
Internet “haves” and “have nots” as perceived by the
respondents does not seem to be uniquely defined by
income and social status. It is obvious that other
factors play a role as well (possibly age). The fear of
a digital divide is pronounced in the age groups of
30-49 and 50+. Possible manipulations and the
corruption of anonymity also play an important role
and may serve as an indicator of the increasing
awareness of the inherent dangers of e-democracy,
here particularly e-voting, systems. It is interesting
to note, that none of the perceived advantages was
gender-specific or (except for independence of place
and time) education-specific, which fits in with the
result that the positive attitude towards e-voting is
independent of these factors as well.
e-voting e-participation
Not significant
7.6 % of female and 21.1% of
male respondents (strongly)
52.5% and 52% (strongly)
interested in age groups 15-29
and 30-49, resp. 32%
interested in a
17.5% of 15-29 year old, 16.3%
of 30-49 year old and 9.8% of >
50 year old respondents are
Not significant
12.7% (grammar and high
school), 7.5% (apprenticeship),
22.4% (college), 10.5% (high
school exit exam) and 23.3%
(university) are (strongly)
Figure 3: Perceived advantages/disadvantages by age and
In terms of the advantages/disadvantages listed, the
hypothesis of independence stated in H2 can hence
be accepted for sex and (except for independence of
time and place) also for education. It has to be
rejected for age: Nearly all perceived dangers and
disadvantages are stronger in the higher age groups,
particularly the fear of manipulation due to
electronic media, whereas increased direct
democracy is particularly perceived by the lower age
Respondents were also asked about the current
Internet usage of the respondents, whereby the fields
of usage suggested to the respondent fall into the
well-known categories of information – feedback –
transaction (cf. Prosser et al. 2004 and the literature
quoted therein). The assignment to an explanatory
factor, however, was not done a priori, but is the
result of a factor analysis yielding profiles of usage
(for an introduction, see Gaensslen and Schubö
1976). The type of factor analysis is the same as in
the last section. The rotated component matrix
yielded the factors shown in Fig. 4 (left-hand side).
Services included in several profiles were eliminated
and the analysis was re-run. In this second analysis
(not shown in Fig. 4), also e-Media was present in
several factors and was eliminated as well. A final
run yielded the factors depicted in Fig. 4 (right-hand
The three remaining profiles can be interpreted as
„transaction user with e-mail“ (1), “browser” (2) and
“participation and entertainment user” (3). In the
following step, these profiles are related to the
preferences expressed for e-voting/e-participation as
shown generally in Fig. 1 to analyze, how current
Internet usage influences the attitude towards e-
democracy. The attitude thereby becomes the
dependent variable and the factors for Internet usage
are the independent variable. The method chosen for
this step was logistic regression, as its data
requirements in relation to model complexity are
relatively parsimonious, particularly as compared to
log linear models (Andreß et al. 1997, Norusis
2001). Since logistic regression requires the
dependent variable to be dichotomous, the responses
as depicted in Fig. 1 were re-coded in that strong
interest and interest was classified as “interested”,
all other values in the Likert scale were classified as
“not interested”. Two models were established, one
with the interest in e-voting and in e-participation as
dependent variable, resp.
The model measures the probability of the
dependent variable to be either of the values listed
above as
with Z being the linear
; the
independent variables
X are the factor values for
Internet usage in each individual data record.
The regression coefficients for all factors are
negative, which means that a low factor value – a
Likert value of 1 or 2, i.e., a frequent usage of the
respective Internet service – leads to a high
probability of the dependent event (“is
interested”).The results for e-voting are highly
significant, the Goodness of Fit in the classification
table would indicate a meaningful estimate. Hence,
the hypothesis of independence H3 can be rejected
for e-voting.
Results are mixed for e-participation; all regression
coefficients are negative, but only one of the factors
is also significant (Factor 2). Hence, it may be
concluded that intensive “browsing” (Factor 2 in
Fig. 4) leads to a positive attitude towards e-
participation; the same conclusion, however, cannot
be drawn for the other factors (which is rather
surprising in the case of factor 3, the “participation
and entertainment” user profile). Generally, H3
cannot be rejected for e-participation on these
Advantage/disadvantage % (strong)
Age Education
Increased direct democracy 50.3% Strong agreement in 15-29
age group
Access to political
Contribute ideas 48.3%
Efficient communication 39.7% Stronger agreement in
older age groups
Independence of place and
68.7% Extremely high agreement
in group of 30-49
Agreement massively
and positively correlates
with educational
Cost cuts in public
Manipulation 60.6% Very strong agreement in
group 50+
Anonymity corrupted 64.0%
Digital divide 69.0% Strong agreement in
groups 30-49 and 50+
Social divide 49.7% Same as above, but less
Trivialisation of politics 45.7% Strong agreement in group
THE ATTITUDE TOWARDS E-DEMOCRACY - Empirical Evidence from the Viennese Population
1 2 3
Information retrieval for
specific topics
E-media (eg.,
E-mail ,639
Chat ,849
Discussion (eg.,
newsgroups, fora)
Entertainment (eg.,
music download)
Online shopping ,755
Online banking ,835
Homepages of public
,585 ,575
Homepages of political
Download of forms of
public authorities
,620 ,621
Political fora ,802
Citizen hotlines online ,623 ,606
1 2 3
Information retrieval for
specific topics
E-mail ,658
Chat ,869
Discussion (eg.,
newsgroups, fora)
Entertainment (eg.,
music download)
Online shopping ,795
Online banking ,857
Homepages of political
Political fora ,830
Citizen hotlines online ,760
Figure 4: Internet Usage Profiles.
The results show that there is a strong interest in e-
voting, which is (i) independent of education and
gender, (ii) which is lower but still remarkably high
in the 50+ age group and (iii) which is considerably
higher than the interest in e-participation. Whatever
the reasons behind this difference, it clearly shows
which e-democracy activities and systems are to be
prioritized: Decision making rather than discussion
and deliberation. Respondents generally show a
positive disposition towards e-democracy, clearly
recognizing the advantages of Internet-based
systems. Fears of negative effects are clearly higher
among the higher age groups and mainly concern
corrupted voter anonymity, manipulation of
(election) results and – most prominently and in
spite of an increasing Internet penetration rate – a
possible digital divide. Interestingly, the wish for
direct democracy by digital means is high among the
younger age group, which might indicate a way to
interest these age groups in democratic processes.
A study conducted among the political leaders of the
30 larges cities and of the 9 federal provinces in
Austria, which is to complement the study presented
in this paper will reveal, whether the focus of the
political decision-makers matches the focus of the
population in this regard. It is also to reveal whether
the dis/advantages as perceived by the politicians
and citizens match. This will be subject to future
Prosser, A., Krimmer, R. (eds.), 2003. E-Democracy:
Technologie, Recht und Politik. Bericht des
Arbeitskreises e-Democracy der OCG, Vienna
Prosser, A., Krimmer, R. (eds.), 2004. Electronic Voting
in Europe - Technology, Law, Politics and Society.
Proceedings of the ESF TED Workshop on Electronic
Voting in Europe, P-47 GI-LNI Series
Statistik Austria, 2004. Viennese Population Statistics
2001, Statistical Surveys Section 14, the educational
data was taken from (20.7.2004)
Prosser, A., Krimmer, R., 2004. Elektronische Demokratie
- Wohin geht Österreich?. In: Wimmer, M.: 3. OCG e-
Gov Day 2004. Schriftenreihe der Österreichischen
Computergesellschaft, Vienna
Gaensslen H., Schubö, W., 1976. Einfache und komplexe
statistische Analyse, 2. Auflage. UTB, Munich
Andreß, H.-J., Hagenaars, J.A., Kühnel, S., 1997. Analyse
von Tabellen und kategorialen Daten. Springer, Berlin
Norusis, M.J., 2001 SPSS for Windows, Advanced
Statistics. SPSS, Chicago, p. 1-30.