Virtual Representatives: Local Elected Officials Online

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Taylor & Francis


Using survey data collected from 184 local elected officials, this paper investigates how frequently local political officials use e-mail, and how important they consider e-mail, compared with telephone calls, postal mail, faxes, and meetings. Among all forms of communication, only phone calls are initiated with a similar rate of frequency as e-mail messages. E-mail is rated as important as telephone calls and meetings, and more important than letters and faxes. E-mail is used more heavily by representatives from professional county boards and city councils, but regarded as more important, relative to other communication methods, by members of non-professional city councils. Despite e-mail's limitations, it is a powerful and useful tool for “virtual representatives.”