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Wired Voters: The Effects of Internet Use on Voters’ Electoral Uncertainty

Abstract

This article examines whether voters’ use of the internet as a source of political news affects the extent to which they are certain of their vote choice in national-level elections. It employs data pertaining to the 2011 general election in Ireland, linking geographical information on broadband coverage with individual-level public opinion data from the 2011 Irish National Election Study. The resultant dataset allows the adoption of a quasi-experimental approach in our examination of the effects of online political newsgathering on voters’ electoral uncertainty. Implementing instrumental variables, the study finds consistent evidence of a causal relationship between the use of the internet as a source of political information and increased levels of political uncertainty among voters, ceteris paribus. These findings are robust to a range of model specifications and alternative operationalizations of dependent and independent variables.

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Free University Brussels, ULB (email: laura.sudulich@eui.eu); Department of Political and Cultural Studies, Swansea University (email: m.t.wall@swansea.ac.uk); Department of International Relations, London School of Economics and Political Science (email: L.Baccini@lse.ac.uk). The authors would like to thank the Editor and the three anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments. Data replication and online appendices sets are available at http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.1017/S0007123413000513.

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