Filter Bubbles, Alternative News and Political Polarization

Research question/goal: 

Many fear that selective exposure on social media and algorithmically personalized news diets promote the creation of so-called filter bubbles and echo chambers, with serious consequences for democratic societies and the functioning of political institutions and processes. In addition, researchers suspect that alternative media platforms increasingly disseminate factually dubious content. However, only few empirical studies have tackled these questions with adequate data. Against this background, this project will study whether social media and search engines result in the creation of homogeneous news diets, how, and where citizens are exposed to alternative media and factually dubious content. Moreover, it will analyse the consequences of homogeneous news use and alternative media for citizens’ trust in democracy, political institutions, and the media. The data basis will be a combination of survey data and web-tracking data that allow for the unfiltered observation of users’ news exposure on a fine-grained level.

Current stage: 

The collection of survey and web tracking data in the run-up to and after the German federal election in September 2021 has been completed. The project team is currently gathering additional data on the news media consumption of the survey participants derived from the web tracking data. The next step is to weight the data using socio-demographic characteristics of the participants such that the sample reflects the German electorate. Furthermore, exposure and content of news from factually dubious sources will be analysed.

Fact sheet

Funding: 
Baden-Württemberg Stiftung
Duration: 
2021 to 2023
Status: 
ongoing
Data Sources: 
Survey data, web-tracking data
Geographic Space: 
Germany

Publications