Non-News Websites Expose People to More Political Content Than News Websites: Evidence from Browsing Data in Three Countries

Magdalena Wojcieszak, Ericka Menchen-Trevino, Bernhard Clemm von hohenberg, Sjifra De leeuw, João Gonçalves, Sam Davidson, Alexandre Gonçalves

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Most scholars focus on the prevalence and democratic effects of (partisan) news exposure. This focus misses large parts of online activities of a majority of politically disinterested citizens. Although political content also appears outside of news outlets and may profoundly shape public opinion, its prevalence and effects are under-studied at scale. This project combines three-wave panel survey data from three countries (total N = 7,266) with online behavioral data from the same participants (over 106M visits). We create a multi-lingual classifier to identify political content both in news and outside (e.g. in shopping or entertainment sites). We find that news consumption is infrequent: just 3.4% of participants’ online browsing comprised visits to news sites. Only between 14% (NL) and 36% (US) of these visits were to news about politics. The overwhelming majority of participants' visits were to non-news sites. Although only 1.6\% of those visits related to politics, in absolute terms, citizens encounter politics more frequently outside of news than within news. Out of every 10 visits to political content, 3.4 come from news and 6.6 from non-news sites. Furthermore, exposure to political content outside news domains had the same–and in some cases stronger - associations with key democratic attitudes and behaviors as news exposure. These findings offer a comprehensive analysis of the online political (not solely news) ecosystem and demonstrate the importance of assessing the prevalence and effects of political content in non-news sources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-151
Number of pages23
JournalPolitical Communication
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2024


  • computational social science
  • information consumption
  • misinformation
  • News exposure
  • polarization
  • political content
  • political knowledge

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science


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