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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter September 20, 2013

The Internet, News Consumption, and Political Attitudes – Evidence for Sweden

Che-Yuan Liang and Mattias Nordin

Abstract

We investigate the effects of the rise of the Internet as an additional mass medium on news consumption patterns and political attitudes. We use Swedish survey data from 2002 to 2007, the period during which high-speed Internet (broadband) emerged. We find that broadband access is associated with online media consumption. The crowd out of offline consumption is, however, small. Furthermore, these altered news consumption patterns have no or small effects on political attitudes.

Acknowledgments

We thank Massimo Bordignon, Matz Dahlberg, Mikael Elinder, Eva Mörk, Gisle Natvik, an anonymous referee, and seminar participants at Uppsala University and Ratio for valuable comments and suggestions. The Jan Wallander and Tom Hedelius Foundation, the Swedish Research Council, and the Uppsala Center for Fiscal Studies are acknowledged for their financial support.

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  1. 1

    There is also an extensive literature on the effects of file-sharing of online music and movies on music and movie sales, most of which find considerable crowd out, e.g. Rob and Waldfogel (2006), Zentner (2006), Bhattacharjee et al. (2007), Liebowitz (2008), Adermon and Liang (2010), and Hong (2013). An exception is Oberholzer-Gee and Strumpf (2007) which do not find any effects (see also the comment by Liebowitz, 2007).

  2. 2

    See Mullainathan and Shleifer (2005) for a discussion on how this type of self-selection bias affects the media market.

  3. 3

    Miner (2012) and Larcinese and Miner (2012) instead focus on Internet penetration and its effects on voter turnout and voter behavior.

  4. 4

    This utility function resembles the specification in Gentzkow (2007), and the ux term allows for any patterns of substitutability and complementarity between the different types of media.

  5. 5

    More generally, we cannot identify displacement effects, because there are, as observed in eq. [9], equations, but unknown and unknown , once the reduced-form parameters have been estimated.

  6. 6

    Different from this article, broadband availability is typically not measured at the individual level but rather at the municipal or county levels (broadband coverage) which makes a causal interpretation possible. See also Bhuller et al. (2013) who use such an approach to investigate the relationship between broadband coverage and sex-related crimes.

  7. 7

    Notably, the outcome variables, such as news consumption, are registered regardless of where they are consumed (at home, work, or any other place).

  8. 8

    This variable is not just the sum of the online and offline variables for a given medium, as some individuals consume both the online and the offline versions of that medium.

  9. 9

    The average predicted time spent on tabloid consumption is 8.28 min with broadband and 7.66 min without broadband. Similarly, the predicted share reading tabloids (based on the regression results behind column 4 in Table 2) is 0.357 with broadband and 0.299 without broadband. This implies that the predicted average time reading a tabloid, conditional on reading a tabloid at all, is 23.2 min with broadband and 25.6 min without broadband. Broadband access at home, therefore, decreases average time spent reading a tabloid for tabloid consumers by around 2.4 min.

Published Online: 2013-09-20

©2013 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin / Boston