L’Università del Michigan su richiesta di Goolge ha effettuato una ricerca sul comportamento degli internauti d’Europa quando utilizzano lo stesso Google. Qui riportiamo lo stralcio relativo all’Italia.
Search and Politics: The Uses and Impacts of Search in Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, and the United States William H. Dutton and Bianca C. Reisdorf Quello Center, Michigan State University
Quello Search Project, Quello Center 406 Communication Arts Building, Michigan State University May 1, 2017
6.3. Italy: A Penchant for Search? When it comes to the Web, survey respondents in Italy are big users of search. It’s a tool they like to use and it’s one that they trust more than other nations in this study. What part do Internet search engines play in shaping public opinion in politics and public affairs? Are they important? Are they similar to other media, such as television and newspapers? These questions are at the heart of a multinational study of search and public opinion. This study is based on online surveys of Internet users in seven nations – France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States – with individual country samples stratified by age, region, and gender. As the samples include Internet users only, they are not representative of the countries at large: they only represent the population of Internet users. The study found that search engines are indeed an important source of information for Internet users. However, search takes place in a pluralistic media context. While search is often used to look for information about politics, it is used more often in many other popular content areas. As a source of political information, online search is about as important as television, and yet political search remains only one of several important media. Cross-nationally, there are some relatively consistent patterns of media use, such as a greater reliance on television and the mass media instead of search in the German, French, and UK samples. By contrast, the Internet occupies a more central role for the Polish sample, and to a lesser extent for the Italian and Spanish samples. Internet users in the US are in some ways similar to those in Poland, Italy and Spain and in other ways similar to those in Germany, France and the UK. The Internet users in Italy use search more than many other countries and have high confidence in the accuracy and reliability of search results. However, they rate their search skills lower than most countries, and search and online news are considered most important for their voting decision. At the time of this study, Italy had the second-highest debt in the EU and was facing a north– south divide regarding unemployment and GDP. Since the Arab Spring, Italy has been struggling with an increase in refugees arriving mainly from Africa – leading to repeated requests for EU help. At the same time, the Prime Minister has been replaced several times, with the latest resignation of Renzi after an unsuccessful referendum to amend the constitution in December 2016. At the time of our survey, elections were scheduled for spring 2018; however, there was a possibility that they could be held in 2017. Importance of Search Among the most popular uses of the Internet across all seven countries is looking for news online as well as finding or checking facts – which is often done via search engines. Between 80 and 95 percent of Internet users use search engines at least daily. Search engines are also popular as a first port of call for finding various types of information, such as information on planning a vacation or natural disasters. 168 Respondents in Italy report frequent use of search engines. Fully 90 percent use search engines at least daily, similar to respondents in Spain (90%), and Poland (95%), roughly 10 percentage points higher than the other four countries in the study. Internet users in Italy report similar results to the other six countries in where they go first for information. Search engines are used by 39 percent for professional or school projects, which is similar to Internet users in Spain and Poland, and 10–15 percentage points lower than other countries. Internet users in Italy report finding wrong information and learning something new from an online search more often than respondents in most other countries surveyed in this study. A fifth (20%) report that they find something online that they thought was wrong (very) often, which is higher than any other country, followed by respondents from Spain (16%), France (15%), and Poland (15%). More than half (55%) of the sample in Italy reports learning something new (very) often when doing an online search, similar to respondents in Poland (59%) and Spain (51%), and considerably higher than the other four countries. Respondents in Italy are among the least confident in their skills and report feeling overwhelmed more than respondents in the other six countries. Only 28 percent rate their search skills as excellent, which is the second-lowest. A quarter (23%) say their skills are fair or poor, similar to respondents in Germany (25%) and Poland (21%). A fifth report being overwhelmed often by the amount of information they find in a search, compared to 17 percent of respondents in the Spanish sample, 16 percent in the US sample, and 15 percent in both the Polish and the UK samples. Italian Internet users report being confused by conflicting search results as much as those in other countries; 54 percent have never or rarely been confused, similar to survey respondents in the US (54%), and the UK 57%. Use of Various Media One of the popular uses of search is to check the accuracy of news and information found elsewhere – although the percentage of respondents saying they do this (very) often is high for respondents in the Italian sample (60%), similar to those in Spain (58%) and Poland (57%) and higher than the other country samples (35–53%). While search is not used very often to check information found on social media, half of the respondents from our total sample of all seven nations say they do this occasionally (53%), and a fifth do it any time that they question information (21%). In Italy, 27 percent of respondents reported doing this anytime, higher than any other country. On average, television remains the most popular source for obtaining political news; however, it is closely followed by online sources, family and friends, and print news. There is a sizeable variation across countries, with respondents in Germany reporting a stronger reliance on television than other countries. Internet users in Italy report considerably higher use of online sources to find political information. They get political information less from television (48% 169 say often or very often) and radio (28%) than online sources (58%), similar to Internet users in Poland, Spain, and the US. Respondents in Italy (58%), Poland (59%), and Spain (62%) report more frequent use of search to find political information than Internet users in the other four countries (44–53%), and more use of online sites of major newspapers. Only 9–10 percent of respondents in the Italian, Polish, and Spanish samples report never using these sites, compared to 17–22 percent in the other countries. Respondents in Italy report the most diverse political opinions among people they communicate with online. Seven in ten (71%) say the people they communicate with have mixed beliefs, which is the highest among all countries, and only 13 percent say they have similar beliefs, which is the lowest among all countries. Internet users in Italy find search engines (68%), newspapers (73%), TV/radio (72%), and talking to friends and family (73%) informative to learn what other people think – similar to respondents in Spain and the US. However, they also find discussions on social media (56%) important, similar to Internet users in Poland, Spain, and the US (53–57%), but different from those in France, Germany, and the UK (41–48%). Internet users in Italy say they check news sources different from usual more: 25 percent never or rarely do this, similar to respondents in Poland, Spain, and US, and in contrast to those in France (36%), the UK (38%), and Germany (48%). Of those sampled in Italy, 43 percent report searching online to try to confirm information found elsewhere (very) often, similar to Internet users in Poland, Spain, and the US. Despite low reported search skills, respondents in the Italy sample display confidence that they can find political information online. Less than one-quarter agree with feeling helpless (22%) and only 26 percent feel frustrated often when trying to find information about politics, similar to Internet users in the UK, and lower than most other countries. Perception of Search in Comparison to Other Media When asked to rate the reliability of different forms of media, search receives one of the highest overall ratings, followed by radio, family/friends/colleagues, online and offline newspapers, and television. Social media is rated lowest in the country average. However, there is some variation between countries with regards to the most reliable media. Respondents in Italy have more trust in search engines and give them a higher reliability rating than respondents from other countries in the study. Over a third (36%) think search engines give more objective information than other media, similar to respondents in Poland (37%), and Spain (34%), and between 5–10 percentage points higher than respondents from the other four countries. Fully 62 percent of respondents in the Italian sample are (very) confident that recommendations of search engines are factual and true, similar to Internet users in Spain and France (59%), higher than those in Germany (47%), and lower than those 170 in the US (73%). Respondents in Italy give search engines a fairly high reliability rating. More than half (56%) say search engines are reliable, similar to those in Poland (57%), Spain (55%), and the US (54%). Internet users in Italy rank television less reliable than most countries (39%), similar to those in the UK (34%), and 21 percent rank social media as reliable (similar to Spain and the US). Internet users in Italy think news media report objectively, but not in a balanced way. Almost two-thirds (60%) of the sample think the news media report objectively, which is higher than respondents from most of the other six countries and similar to respondents in the Spanish (66%) and Polish (64%) samples. However, only 16 percent of respondents in Italy believe the reporting in news media is balanced, which is the lowest among all countries. Search and Political Opinion Formation On average, search is first and foremost used to find information about a particular topic, navigate to specific sites, look up facts, and look up news on a topic or event. Finding political information is the least popular item of those we asked about, and searched for about as often as entertaining content. Search is widely perceived as enabling new knowledge and leading to discovery of new, important information. Of our total sample across all seven countries surveyed, 90 percent report that they learn something new at least occasionally, and 82 percent report they discover important information at least occasionally. However, only 42 percent of the total sample report that they found information that changed their mind on a political issue, with respondents in Italy slightly above the average (45%) of all countries. Respondents in Italy report a relatively high impact of search on their political views. Half of respondents in Italy (49%) say they have modified their views because of information they received from a search – similar to Internet users in Spain and the US, but a considerably higher percentage than in the other four countries. In the cross-country average, television, offline discussions, and information found online were the most important factors in shaping a voting decision. Search was only the fourth most important information source. However, there are country differences in the relative importance of each source. Among Internet users in Italy, those who voted in the last election report that online media had a strong impact on their voting decision. The majority reported that search, online only news sites, information found online, and offline discussions with friends were important for their decision. Three-quarters (73%) of respondents in Italy said search was important and 71 percent said online-only news sites were important. This is fairly high among the country averages, but lower than Poland and the US (77–79%). Information found in online and offline 171 discussions with friends was important for 70 percent of Internet users in Italy, which is average among the other countries. Television was less important (67%), similar to respondents in France (67%) and Spain (72%), and considerably lower than the other four countries. Print media (59%) and radio (51%) were less important for respondents in the Italian sample. This is the second lowest proportion after the French sample (54%) and considerably lower than other country samples. Populism, Search Behavior, and Political Opinion Formation To find out whether populism has any effect on search behavior and political opinion formation, we conducted a number of multivariate analyses that include demographic factors, such as age, gender, lifestage, education, and marital status, as well as a number of variables that various theories predict will influence political search behavior, including interest in politics, political activity online and offline, search ability, search efficacy, diversity of media, accuracy of search results, use of the Internet, and populism. Only a few of the demographic variables are statistically significant, such as education being associated with political search in the UK sample, but with little consistency cross-nationally. This is similar to what is reported in the other analyses of our dependent variables: the demographic factors do not have much impact on search compared to the other variables. Among these other, non-demographic variables, three variables are consistently significant in our seven nations: interest in politics, number of sources of political information, and use of the Internet. Search ability is statistically significant in five of seven countries. Offline political activity and the perceived accuracy of search results are significant in four. Interestingly, populism is only significant once, for the Spanish sample, where those with populist views were somewhat more likely to use political search more often. Surprisingly, search efficacy is never significant. Almost three-quarters (73.8%) of the Italian sample agree with three or more populist sentiments, such as a “Compromise in politics is selling out one’s principles.” This is the average among the country samples and similar to French (73.6%) respondents. While the general results of the multivariate analyses hold also for respondents in Italy, a few results stand out. One is the frequency of using search for information about politics or current events: Being married is negatively related, meaning that those who are married use search to look for political information less. Search ability is statistically significant for survey respondents in Italy, Germany, Spain, the UK, and the US. Confidence in the accuracy of search results is significant for respondents in the Italian, Polish, Spanish, and UK samples. 172 With respect to influencing a voting decision, being married and living with a partner are negatively related with the sample of respondents in Italy. Search ability is statistically significant and positive for survey respondents in Germany, Italy, Spain, and the US, and populism is significant for all countries apart from Poland. The frequency of discovering information that changed opinion on political issues when using search is statistically significant and positively related to interest in politics for Internet users in Italy, Poland, Spain, and the UK, but not for the other country samples. Political activity online is not statistically significant for respondents in France, Italy, and Poland. As regards frequency of trying to confirm information found elsewhere by search online: The Italian sample is the only one where being widowed is strongly and positively related to trying to confirm information found elsewhere. Measuring the direct relationship between populism and the dependent variables examined above, populism is positively and significantly related to most of them across most of our country samples with little variation. While some of the dependent variables – “Importance of search for vote decision” and “Frequency of trying to confirm information by using search” – are positively related to all three indicators of populism in Italy, only two out of three indicators for populism were statistically significant for “Discovering information that changed your opinion on a political issue,” and only one of the three indicators was significant for “Frequency of using search to find information about politics.” The variable, “Have you ever modified your political views because of searching information?” is not significant. However, once other variables are controlled, populism has no statistically significant relationship with any of the dependent variables among respondents in Italy, apart from the “Importance of search for vote decision.” This is a brief summary of the relationship between search and politics in Italy. However, more can be found on Italy in the full report.