Does digital information and news consumption endanger democracy?
This project investigates how Swiss voters gather information online prior to elections and votes, i.e. how they use media portals, social media, blogs and other sources. The researchers are also studying how this behaviour affects the level of awareness, political polarisation and trust in democratic institutions.
How does the increasingly digitalised consumption of information and news affect citizens’ opinion-forming processes? What part is played by filter bubbles, echo chambers or motivated reasoning? Do we exclusively consume information that appeals to us or that matches our already existing political opinions? Does digital news consumption lead to further alienation from politics, or to greater polarisation? Very little research has been performed on this subject in Switzerland. This project, based on an innovative research design, aims to close this gap using online surveys, experiments, the tracking of browser data, and the user data of digital decision support tools such as the online voting tool «smartvote».
Swiss voters are increasingly turning to online sources for information on political developments. They have access to a large and constantly growing, but also scattered and confusing range of information. Swiss citizens having an important say in political matters – questions regarding how well informed they are, are very relevant. Nevertheless, very little is known about how political opinions are formed and how the digital transformation affects this process.
This project addresses the following questions:
- How does the Swiss population consume political news? Are they well informed? Which social groups mainly consume online news and through which channels? How selective are these citizens in their news consumption?
- What impact does political media consumption have on the available information, on the opinion-forming process, and on political polarisation and general trust in politics and democratic institutions?
This project fills a significant research gap by systematically examining for the first time how citizens inform themselves online and how their behaviour affects their opinion-forming processes. Reliable information on this topic also provides the basis for an in-depth discussion on a possible need for additional regulation or action pertaining to online platforms, social media, and their role in an increasingly digitalised democracy.
Online News Exposure: A Threat to Democracy? How Digital Transformation Affects Opinion Formation, Political Polarization and Trust