Information search and decision making in the election processes
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The belief on the effects of political advertising and today’s ever increasing financial and technological resources yield an abundance of political messages during elections. However, it is not easy for ordinary citizens to process all the available information. With the limited information processing capacities, voters tend to be selective rather than conduct a complete search. Choice is a function of the information provided to the subjects, and the process of information acquisition implies how people form their decisions. Differences among candidates in levels of information have considerable political implications because voters do not cast ballots for candidates they do not feel they know. In order to develop effective campaign strategies, it is fundamental to understand how people search and select information prior to making voting choices. Therefore, the present study examines voters’ information search behavior in the context of an election, with a special focus on the role of knowledge in this process. There have been two methodologically distinctive yet complementary approaches in information search and decision making: the structural modeling approach and the process modeling approach. This study applies the process modeling approach, in which strategies that people used to make a decision are the main focus of inquiry. Information search behavior is examined by the amount of search, the content of search, and sequence of search, in use of the process-tracing method, which is considered the best way to study information search by collecting data while the decision is being made rather than being inferred from the outputs. Especially, information board technique is used in this study. Information items are constructed on the computer interface based on the student survey and the content analysis of politicians’ personal Websites. The major finding of this study is that different types of knowledge (i.e., objective and subjective knowledge) have different effects on information search. Further, information search has significant effects on decision-making. This study provides a better understanding of voters’ information search behaviors and their choices, and helps explain and predict voting behavior. Theoretical and practical implications are also provided. Finally, the directions for future research are suggested.