Googling politics: Usage patterns, information sources, and issue ownerships in the 2017 German Federal Election
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Recent public debates have pointed at various algorithmic online phenomena such as search engine rankings as causes of constrained access to political information online. Empirical investigations, however, are still sparse. Thus, we analyze what people actually search for with search engines during an election campaign, what results they encounter, and how these results reflect people’s issue-ownership attributions. During the 2017 German Federal Election, we followed a multi-method design consisting of search volume data from Google Trends, survey data about ascribed party-issue links, and search results obtained from Google Search by agent-based testing. The highest search volume was found for queries related to general election facts. Search results originated mainly from established news outlets and reflected existing power relations between political parties. Issue-ownership attributions were reflected poorly in the search results. In total, our results suggest that the fear of algorithmic constraints in the context of online search might be unsubstantiated.
Unkel, J. & Haim, M. (5/2018). Googling politics: Usage patterns, information sources, and issue ownerships in the 2017 German Federal Election. Presented at the 68th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association, Prag. (content_copy)