2021 年 99 巻 p. 3-13
In the United States increasing ideological polarization between the Republicans and the Democrats has deteriorated into a deep partisan divide among the public, exemplified by the Trump phenomenon since the 2016 presidential election. It has been noted that the Internet intensifies and entrenches such polarization of political attitudes through encouraging selective exposure of information based on individual preferences and predispositions.
In Japan, although the situation is not as drastic as in the United States, the left-right partisan conflict in the mass public has become more salient under the Abe government than before, particularly on the Internet. This study examined the effects of Internet use to polarize Japanese political attitudes, distinguishing the two-stage processes suggested by the “minimal effects” theory.
Analyses of nation-wide survey data randomly collected in 2019 revealed that people with high political interest and efficacy were more likely to seek ʻhard news’ concerning political and social affairs on the Internet, while those who were less politically sophisticated tended to focus more on ʻsoft news’, such as entertainment. The results indicated that the high-choice information environment brought about by the Internet increased the gap between the political actives and the apathies. Second, using a generalized ordered probit regression model as an alternative to a problematic methodology employed in previous studies, this study demonstrated that hours of using the Internet for personal interests had significantly a polarizing effect on the approval/disapproval toward the Abe administration, which was likely affection-based rather than ideology-based. This paper discussed the implications of these findings for civic engagement in democracy.