The Consequences of the Internet for Politics

Posted: 25 Jun 2012

See all articles by Henry Farrell

Henry Farrell

George Washington University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: June 2012


Political scientists are only now beginning to come to terms with the importance of the Internet to politics. The most promising way to study the Internet is to look at the role that causal mechanisms such as the lowering of transaction costs, homophilous sorting, and preference falsification play in intermediating between specific aspects of the Internet and political outcomes. This will allow scholars to disentangle the relevant causal relationships and contribute to important present debates over whether the Internet exacerbates polarization in the United States, and whether social media helped pave the way toward the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011. Over time, ever fewer political scientists are likely to study the Internet as such, as it becomes more and more a part of everyday political life. However, integrating the Internet's effects with present debates over politics, and taking proper advantage of the extraordinary data that it can provide, requires good causal arguments and attention to their underlying mechanisms.

Suggested Citation

Farrell, Henry John, The Consequences of the Internet for Politics (June 2012). Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 15, pp. 35-52, 2012, Available at SSRN: or

Henry John Farrell (Contact Author)

George Washington University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Washington, DC 20052
United States
202-247-0413 (Phone)

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