Informed Democracy: Information Experiences during the 2012 Queensland Election

Informed Democracy: Information Experiences during the 2012 Queensland Election

Insa Haidn (Queensland University of Technology, Australia), Helen Partridge (Queensland University of Technology, Australia) and Christine Yates (Queensland University of Technology, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5158-6.ch002
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Abstract

This chapter presents the preliminary findings of a qualitative study exploring people’s information experiences during the 2012 Queensland State election in Australia. Six residents of South East Queensland who were eligible to vote in the state election participated in a semi-structured interview. The interviews revealed five themes that depict participants’ information experience during the election: information sources, information flow, personal politics, party politics, and sense making. Together these themes represent what is experienced as information, how information is experienced, as well as contextual aspects that were unique to voting in an election. The study outlined here is one in an emerging area of enquiry that has explored information experience as a research object. This study has revealed that people’s information experiences are rich, complex, and dynamic, and that information experience as a construct of scholarly inquiry provides deep insights into the ways in which people relate to their information worlds. More studies exploring information experience within different contexts are needed to help develop our theoretical understanding of this important and emerging construct.
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Background

It has been argued that without a basic understanding of differences in policy between candidates and parties “the public will be unable to cast its ballots wisely and, hence, unable to hold elected leaders accountable for their actions” (Craig, Kane, & Gainous, 2005, p. 483). Eveland, Hayes, Shah, and Kwak (2005, p. 428) echo this sentiment stating that “knowledge of such information is important for citizens to make informed decisions.” How then do voters select, gather and use political information that is available to them? There has been a plethora of research in the political arena, giving some insight into the information sources used by citizens to inform their voting decisions, and factors that affect certain aspects of voting such as perceived knowledge, political self efficacy and commitment to vote. This section will briefly review some of the findings of research that has been undertaken in this field.

Much has been uncovered about the sources that citizens report using to gather information to inform their vote. For example, Lusoli (2005) reported that 78% of Europeans surveyed reported receiving election information from television or radio broadcasts, 60% read newspaper articles, and 46% discussed political issues with family and friends. Norris and Curtice (2007) found similar results for British citizens: 51% used television or radio broadcasts for their political information gathering, 47% read the newspaper, and 46% discussed the election with friends and family. While conducting focus group interviews with college students in the United States, Wells and Dudash (2007) discovered that discussions with family and friends was mentioned by 28.5% of participants, while 22% watched/listened to television and radio programs, 10% read newspapers, and 15% reported using the Internet for seeking political information.

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