Abstract

This paper evaluates the influence of online news consumption on attitudes toward the European Union in a context of protracted economic crisis. Using data from the 2011 Irish National Election Study, we combine location-specific information on broadband availability with respondent geo-location data, which facilitates causal inference about the effects of online news consumption via instrumental variable models. Results show that Irish citizens who source political information online are more prone to blame the EU for the poor state of the economy than those who do not. There is evidence of preference reinforcement among those with negative predispositions toward the EU, but not among pro-EU citizens. We complement this analysis with a study of voting behavior in the European Fiscal Compact Referendum, employing a similar methodological approach. The results from this second survey confirm the anti-EU influence of online news consumption among Irish citizens, although evidence suggests a pro-EU effect among voters who browsed the website of the politically neutral Irish Referendum Commission. Our paper contributes to the literature on public opinion, the EU, and political attitudes in times of crisis.

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