September 22, 2019

How “Information Gerrymandering” Influences Voters: Study Analyzes How Networks Can Distort Voters’ Perceptions and Change Election Results”

From MIT News:

Many voters today seem to live in partisan bubbles, where they receive only partial information about how others feel regarding political issues. Now, an experiment developed in part by MIT researchers sheds light on how this phenomenon influences people when they vote.

The experiment, which placed participants in simulated elections, found not only that communication networks (such as social media) can distort voters’ perceptions of how others plan to vote, but also that this distortion can increase the chance of electoral deadlock or bias overall election outcomes in favor of one party.  

“The structure of information networks can really fundamentally influence the outcomes of elections,” says David Rand, an associate professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management and a co-author of a new paper detailing the study. “It can make a big difference and is an issue people should be taking seriously.”

More specifically, the study found that “information gerrymandering” can bias the outcome of a vote, such that one party wins up to 60 percent of the time in simulated elections of two-party situations where the opposing groups are equally popular. In a follow-up empirical study of the U.S. federal government and eight European legislative bodies, the researchers also identified actual information networks that show similar patterns, with structures that could skew over 10 percent of the vote in the study’s experiments.

Read the Complete Summary

Direct to Full Text Article Cited in Summary: Information Gerrymandering in Social Networks Skews Collective Decision-Making (via Nature)

Gary Price About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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