Searching differently? How political attitudes impact search queries about political issues

van Hoof, Marieke; Meppelink, Corine S; Moeller, Judith; Trilling, Damian
New Media & Society

For many, search engines are crucial gateways to (political) information. While extant research is concerned with algorithmic bias, user choices had been largely neglected. Yet, search queries are the key way in which searchers explicate their information need. Building on framing theory and selective exposure, we argue that queries are ingrained with (political) predispositions: issue frames in mind of searchers manifest themselves in search terms and queries. Using Dutch survey data (N = 1994), and manual coding and latent class analysis, we explore how types of people formulate search queries about immigration and climate change (RQ1). A regression analysis shows how these searcher types relate to political attitudes and socio-demographic characteristics (RQ2). Notably, searchers formulate queries in ways that are related to their political positions, but this differs for different issues. These findings imply systematic differences in user choices which future research needs to consider when auditing search engines.