Tatsuo Tanaka, Keio University, Faculty of Economics
Satoshi Hamaya, Fujitsu Research Institute, Economic Research Center
Two large-scale questionnaire surveys were conducted to verify whether the Internet causes users’ political opinions to become extreme, and society to become polarized. By conducting two surveys on the same individuals, the effect of media use could be measured by ignoring differences of the original personal characteristics of each individual. Through examination by this method, we found little evidence that Internet use leads to polarization. New users of Facebook and Twitter, the two largest social networking services (SNS) on the Internet, showed no tendency to become politically extreme. Furthermore, starting to visit blogs had a moderating effect on respondents. No difference was observed between online news users and TV news viewers, both of whom were observed to grow more extreme. It was not possible to find an example where an individual’s way of using the Internet clearly promoted polarization. Although it seems that the Internet is polarizing society, some other cause needs to be identified to explain the trend.
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This report is only available in Japanese.
Does the Internet Polarize Society? – An Empirical Study based on Panel Data –
August 2018, FRI Research Report No. 462: Tatsuo Tanaka, Satoshi Hamaya