This study examines whether Internet use improves the diffusion of political information among minorities, and if Internet use translates into more political participation by members of marginalized groups. Research has shown that the web enables individuals to engage with information selectively. Selective engagement occurs when individuals retrieve news that speaks their political preferences, and ignore information that clashes with already existing opinions. Using panel survey data and an experimental design, the study examines whether the same underlying mechanism that allows citizens to sort themselves into highly partisan information worlds online (via selective exposure to information) also enables members of historically disadvantaged groups to efficiently access information that pertains specifically to them and to their groups' political goals. Moreover, the project addresses whether selective exposure to online news could provide political knowledge gains among minority populations that may translate into better representation by the political system. The intellectual merit of the project is associated with its three main objectives: (1) to examine how partisanship, ideology, race and ethnicity, as well as group consciousness, influence selective exposure to political information online; (2) to research how selective exposure affects the quality, quantity and strength of political attitudes; (3) to test the impact of selective exposure on political participation and the quality of vote choice. The project employs a multi-method approach to address these objectives. In the first and completed phase of the research, panel data were analyzed to test the role of race/ethnicity in moderating the effects of online news consumption and subsequent attitude change using generalized linear mixed models. Phase II of the research will add an experiment to test what news African-American, Caucasian and Latino subjects select when they are exposed to different information environments, and how news selection impacts the quality, quantity and strength of political attitudes, as well as various forms of participation. The experiment tracks what news sources subjects select, how much time they spend with each news source, how much information they recall, and how news selection impacts opinion and the quality of their choices.The broader impacts of this research are related to representation and citizenship. Access to information is a critical prerequisite for the realization of full citizenship, and marginalized groups have historically been served poorly by mainstream media. Minorities may therefore stand to gain the most from the vast information found on the web. By examining the role of ethnicity, race and partisanship in the selection of information, and by researching the subsequent development of political knowledge and attitudes, as well as political participation, this research speaks to scholarship in political communications, political psychology, and race and politics. The data generated in this experiment will also be made available to other researchers. The data and findings will be of interest to scholars who are researching information, participation and representation.
|Effective start/end date||5/1/12 → 4/30/13|
- National Science Foundation (National Science Foundation (NSF))