London: Easy accessibility of political information through the internet has affected voter turnout, a study has found.
The internet has allowed politicians to directly communicate their message to voters, circumventing the mainstream media which would traditionally filter information.
The researchers have presented studies from a number of countries, comparing voter behaviour of municipalities with internet access to the ones without.
It showed that municipalities with internet access faced a decrease in voter turnout, due to voters suddenly facing an overwhelmingly large pool of information and not knowing how to filter relevant knowledge efficiently.
“Similarly, the internet seemed to have reduced the importance of other media. However, the introduction of interactive social media helped voters to collect information more efficiently,” said Stephan Heblich, researcher at the University of Bristol in a statement.
But the researcher stated there is a downside as voters can now be personally identified and strategically influenced by targeted information.
The research showed that there is a thin line between desirable benefits of more efficient information dissemination and undesirable possibilities of voter manipulation.
Therefore, policymakers need to consider introducing measures to educate voters to become more discriminating in their use of the internet.
“To the extent that online consumption replaces the consumption of other media (newspapers, radio, or television) with a higher information content, there may be no information gains for the average voter and, in the worst case, even a crowding-out of information,” Heblich added.