Project on Democracy and the Internet

Longitudinal study of online news consumption and its ramifications for polarization, misinformation, and opinion manipulation

In partnership with
 

Overview

This project tracks Americans’ web browsing behavior since August 2016.  The same individuals (a sample of 1200 recruited from the YouGov national panel) are surveyed at 6 month intervals to assess changes in their political attitudes in relation to changes in their online behavior.  To date, respondents have been surveyed in August and December of 2016, June of 2017, January 2018, and July, 2018.  Initial analyses of the data have focused on polarization and misinformation.  Over the course of the 2016 presidential campaign, evaluations of the two candidates and political parties remained relatively stable, at a high level of polarization.  Exposure to partisan news sites did not exacerbate polarization.  However, participants who made more visits to partisan sites became significantly more misinformed; they denied that the Russians attempted to influence the 2016 election, and believed that President Obama ordered wiretaps on Trump Tower.  Present efforts to utilize the dataset focus on identifying the antecedents of online news preferences and the relative stability of web browsing behavor vis-a-vis survey measures of political attitudes.