A team of researchers from LMU Munich, Max Planck Society and
the British Stirling University analyzed the impact of the Internet on voting
behavior. Based on German election and telecommunication data, the
scientists investigated how the Internet affects two key variables
in the political economy: namely overall voter turnout and the
strength of established parties vis-à-vis fringe parties at the
right and left political spectrum.
20% fewer votes for extreme right-wing
Their results indicate that increasing DSL Internet availability
from 0 to 100% decreases voter turnout relatively by 3.0 to 3.9%.
For most individual parties Internet availability has no impact
with one exception: extremist right-wing parties receive, on
average, 0.4% fewer votes when Internet availability increases from
0 to 100%. Given their average voter share of 2.2% in Germany, this
is equivalent to a relative decrease of almost 20%.
"A possible explanation for the negative effect of the Internet
on voter turnout is that the Internet carries less or other
information than the media [like newspapers] that it crowds out,"
the paper argues. Further examination of the data indeed shows that
Internet availability has a negative effect on national newspaper
circulation which in turn decreases voter turnout. For local
newspapers and local elections, this cannot be observed.
For the full research paper, please click here.
* 10%, ** 5%, *** 1% significance