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Political Online Information Searching in Germany and the United States: Confirmation Bias, Source Credibility, and Attitude Impacts

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Before the 2013 German federal election, 121 participants completed a 2‐session online study (which paralleled a U.S. study before the 2012 presidential election). They browsed online search results pertaining to 4 political issues while selective exposure was unobtrusively measured. In a 4 × 2 × 2 (topic × issue stance × source credibility) within‐subjects design, the search results indicated either issue support or opposition, associated with low‐ or high‐credibility sources. Hypotheses were derived from cognitive dissonance, approach‐avoidance, and motivated cognition models. Findings yielded a confirmation bias. Attitude‐consistent exposure uniformly reinforced attitudes; attitude‐discrepant exposure uniformly weakened attitudes. Analyses with parallel U.S. data showed a stronger confirmation bias in the United States than in Germany.
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Keywords: Attitudes; Comparative Studies; Confirmation Bias; Online Search; Politics; Selective Exposure; Source Credibility

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2015

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