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Search and Politics: The Uses and Impacts of Search in Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, and the United States

204 Pages Posted: 1 May 2017 Last revised: 18 May 2017

William H. Dutton

Michigan State University - Quello Center

Bianca Christin Reisdorf

Michigan State University - Quello Center

Elizabeth Dubois

University of Ottawa

Grant Blank

Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford

Date Written: May 1, 2017

Abstract

Global debate over the impact of algorithms and search on shaping political opinions has increased following dramatic election results in Europe and the US. Powerful images of the Internet enabling access to a global treasure trove of information have shifted to worries over whether those who use search engines and social media are being fed inaccurate, false, or politically targeted information that distorts public opinion. There are serious questions over whether biases embedded in the algorithms that drive search engines and social media have major political consequences, such as creating filter bubbles or echo chambers. For example, do search engines and social media provide people with information that aligns with their beliefs and opinions or do they challenge them to consider countervailing perspectives? Most generally, the predominant concern is do these media have a major impact on public opinion and political viewpoints, and if so, for the better or worse.

This study addresses these issues by asking Internet users how they use search, social media, and other important media to get information about political candidates, issues, and politics generally, as well as what difference it makes for individuals participating in democratic processes. We conducted an online survey of Internet users in seven nations: Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, and the US.

Notes: This report is part of a Quello Center search project at Michigan State University, entitled “The Part Played by Search in Shaping Political Opinion”, supported by Google. The authors are grateful to Jon Steinberg and his colleagues at Google for supporting independent, academic research in this area. All of the views expressed in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Quello Center or any of the organizations supporting this research.

Keywords: search, search engines, fake news, echo chamber, filter bubble, Internet, social media, politics, opinion

Suggested Citation

Dutton, William H. and Reisdorf, Bianca Christin and Dubois, Elizabeth and Blank, Grant, Search and Politics: The Uses and Impacts of Search in Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, and the United States (May 1, 2017). Quello Center Working Paper No. 5-1-17. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2960697

William H. Dutton (Contact Author)

Michigan State University - Quello Center ( email )

406 Communication Arts Building
East Lansing, MI 48824-1212
United States

HOME PAGE: http://quello.msu.edu

Bianca Christin Reisdorf

Michigan State University - Quello Center ( email )

406 Communication Arts Building
404 Wilson Road
East Lansing, MI 48824-1212
United States

Elizabeth Dubois

University of Ottawa ( email )

70 Laurier East
Room 529
Ottawa, ONTARIO K1N 6N5
Canada

Grant Blank

Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford ( email )

1 St. Giles
University of Oxford
Oxford OX1 3PG Oxfordshire, Oxfordshire OX1 3JS
United Kingdom

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