For the first time in human history, access to information on almost any topic is accessible through the Internet. A powerful extraction system is needed to disseminate this knowledge, which for most users is Google. Google Search is an extremely powerful and important component to American political life in the twenty-first century, yet its influence is poorly researched or understood.
Sean Richey and J. Benjamin Taylor explore for the first time the influence of Google on American politics, specifically on direct democracy. Using original experiments and nationally representative cross-sectional data, Richey and Taylor show how Google Search returns quality information, that users click on quality information, and gain political knowledge and other contingent benefits. Additionally, they correlate Google usage with real-world voting behavior on direct democracy.
Building a theory of Google Search use for ballot measures, Google and Democracy is an original addition to the literature on the direct democracy, Internet politics, and information technology. An indispensable read to all those wishing to gain new insights on how the Internet has the power to be a normatively valuable resource for citizens.
Table of Contents
- Introduction: Direct Democracy, Political Knowledge, and the Internet
- Internet Politics & The Computer Science of Google
- Google Search Returns on Ballot Measures
- Click Behavior and Direct Democracy
- Learning Happens: Political Knowledge and Three Ballot Measures
- Internet Research and Intellectually-Secure Decisions in Direct Democracy
- Real-World Applications: Does Google Use Correlate with Real-World Political Behavior?
- Conclusions & Directions for Future Research
Sean Richey is Associate Professor of Political Science at Georgia State University, U.S.A. He was a Fulbright Fellow from 2013–2014 at the University of Tokyo. He was a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Post-Doctoral Fellow at the University of Tokyo between 2004 and 2006. He researches American politics with a specialization in elections, voting behavior, public opinion, and quantitative methodology. His research has appeared in two peer-reviewed books, and in academic journals articles in Political Research Quarterly, the British Journal of Political Science, Political Communication, Political Behavior, International Studies Quarterly, and others.
J. Benjamin Taylor is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, U.S.A. He researches and teaches courses on American political behavior with a focus on the effect of media on political behavior and attitudes. He has published a peer-reviewed book, Extreme Media and American Politics: In Defense of Extremity (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), and has published articles in Political Communication, State Politics & Policy Quarterly, American Politics Research, Politics & Religion, and Presidential Studies Quarterly.
The authors were featured in an interview with the Washington Post here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/12/22/heres-how-google-is-helping-not-hurting-democracy/?utm_term=.b86c169aa722
'The most recent US presidental election showed that voting behavior is far more complicated than expected; this book helps us to understand the digital tools citizens use to frame their vote decision.' - Sergio Picazo-Vela, Professor of Business Administration, Universidad de las Américas Puebla
'The radical change in citizens' access to specific and relevant information has profound implications for democracy. Soon, we may well feel that voting without searching for information on the internet is as irresponsible as making a major purchase without comparison shopping, or signing a binding contract without reading it. Google and Democracy makes a compelling, and reassuring, case for that future.' - Richard N. Engstrom, Associate Director of the Institute for Governmental Service and Research, University of Maryland