Search engines may affect the results of elections from 12 to 80% of undecided voters can be swayed to the side of any candidate

Psychologists from the American Institute of Behavioral Research and Technology (American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology) found that manipulation of the procedure for issuing sites on candidates for certain positions during the elections can sway from 12 to 80 percent of undecided voters on the side of any candidate . At the same time, even if people realize that their opinion is manipulated, they not only do not change their decision, but even more strengthened in it. The work is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Scientists have conducted a series of experiments, three - two laboratory and one in a real election. For this, they have created their own search engine, and use real Kadoodle electoral sites and materials on the candidates.

In the first series of experiments, psychologists have selected 102 subjects eligible to vote in the population of San Diego (CA). They were divided into two experimental and one control group and asked to imagine that they need to participate in the election of the Prime Minister of Australia from 2010 (in fact, the prime minister is promoted by the party having a majority in the House of Representatives of the Australian Parliament). The vast majority of participants knew nothing about the main candidates for the post - Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard. The opinion they had to make, based on the study sites and publications of the candidates.

The control group was given the issuance of the 30 sites of both candidates, sorted in a completely random order. The issue of the first experimental group the top fifteen positions occupied sites of Tony Abbott, and the second - Julia Gillard. In most cases, the subjects spent significantly more time reading sites from top issue than the tail.

In a survey on the preferred candidate members of the control group did not express significant preferences to a particular candidate. At the same time, in both experimental groups a shift in favor of the candidate, whose websites were the top issue, amounted to about 48 percent. But the most surprising was the fact that although some subjects noticed distortion in the issue and voiced it, however, it has further strengthened their desire to vote for the candidate of the stamp issue. They explained it like this: “Yes, I see the distortion, but if the search engine sites gives this candidate on the first page, so it’s not just because it reflects its popularity.”

When you repeat the same experiment on a larger sample of 2,100 people, the shift was already up to 80 percent. It was found that the most affected by using manipulation SERP voters support the Republican Party, divorced and very ignorant people about the candidates.

10 August 2015

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