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Online Reader Comments as Indicator for Perceived Public Opinion

Thomas N. Friemel & Mareike Dötsch
 

Berlin, 2015
DOI 10.17174/dcr.v1.8 (SSOAR)

Abstract: The emergence of online reader comments over the past years has made opinions of readers more visible to journalists and users of news websites. This article discusses whether online reader comments provide a representative picture of the opinion of news site users and how this affects the perceived public opinion. Findings of an online survey among the users of eight Swiss newspapers indicate that comments are not representative since people who write comments tend to differ from those reading the comments with respect to gender, age, and political orientation. Of special interest is the finding that those writing comments tend to be politically further right than those reading comments and that “rightists” are writing more frequently. However, readers of the comments are not aware of this bias, leading to a systematically distorted perception of public opinion. Different types of regulation are discussed with respect to their acceptance as well as their potential impact on comments.
 

 


Prof. Dr. Thomas N. Friemel is Professor for Communication and Media Studies with a focus on methodological innovation at ZeMKI, Centre for Media, Communication and Information Sciences at the University of Bremen

Mareike Dötsch, M.A. is research associate at ZeMKI, Centre for Media, Communication and Information Sciences at the University of Bremen


Friemel, T. N., & Dötsch, M. (2015). Online Reader Comments as Indicator for Perceived Public Opinion. In M. Emmer & C. Strippel (Hrsg.), Kommunikationspolitik für die digitale Gesellschaft (S. 151-172). doi: 10.17174/dcr.v1.8


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