Seminar with Øyvind Skorge (Institute for Social Research)
Title of presentation: Does high-speed internet erode democracy? Evidence on turnout and polarization from a Norwegian broadband reform (a paper co-authored with Sebastian Ellingsen and Øystein Hernæs)
To what extent the surge of high-speed internet has contributed to democratic erosion is contested. One the one hand, it may crowd out voters’ consumption of traditional media with higher and more unbiased knowledge about politics, which is expected to lessen turnout and polarize those who nonetheless vote. On the other hand, it may add to individuals’ existing news consumption and increase political knowledge, which is expected to increase turnout and leave polarization unaffected. To evaluate these competing hypotheses, we exploit a large-scale broadband reform that was rolled out in a staggered fashion across Norwegian municipalities during the 2000-2008 period. Our instrumental variable analysis reveals a positive effect of high-speed internet usage on the turnout rate in municipal elections and a small (and insigniﬁcant) negative effect on polarization in vote choice. We also show that the arrival of high-speed internet increased time online without replacing the consumption of newspapers, radio, and TV. Our analysis suggests that high-speed internet have more nuanced effects on electoral participation than what is commonly asserted.