The search engine manipulation effect (SEME) and its
possible impact on the outcomes of elections
Robert Epstein1 and Ronald E. Robertson
Now we know the rest of the story on how polls are manipulated.
We present evidence from five experiments in two countries
suggesting the power and robustness of the search engine
manipulation effect (SEME).
Specifically, we show that (i) biased
search rankings can shift the voting preferences of undecided
voters by 20% or more, (ii) the shift can be much
higher in some demographic groups, and (iii) such rankings can
be masked so that people show no awareness of the manipulation.
Knowing the proportion of undecided voters in a
population who have Internet access, along with the proportion
of those voters who can be influenced using SEME,
allows one to calculate the win margin below which SEME
might be able to determine an election outcome.