Wikipedia deemed a reliable source for political info by new study

Apr 14, 2011

Not so long ago Wikipedia was considered a playground for Capitol Hill staffers to game the system and make "the boss look better and the opponent look ridiculous."

Now a peer-reviewed study by Brigham Young University Adam Brown validates as a reliable place to get a political education.

The research focused on past and present candidates for governor across the 50 states. Brown fact-checked biographical information and voting statistics and found very few inaccuracies.

"My finding is optimistic for the health of our country," said Brown, whose study appeared today in the journal PS: Political Science and Politics. "It doesn't have to be hard to learn about the political process, or your political candidates."

When Brown conducted the study, Wikipedia contained articles for 230 of the 246 major-party candidates that ran for governor between 1998 and 2008. Brown found that all of the verifiable biographical information in those articles was completely accurate.

Even though election statistics can be tricky topics as well, Brown found that most are trustworthy. He found only four articles that reported a difference of more than 1 percentage point from the actual election result.

Brown's study was modeled after a Nature investigation that pitted against Wikipedia on scientific articles. But Brown wondered whether "the free encyclopedia" would survive the heated debates and contradicting opinions of the political scene.

"The more an issue is talked about, the more people are battling over it on Wikipedia," Brown said.

The prominence of an issue is what drives up its accuracy. Brown said he found more facts missing among obscure or local political topics.

Like all encyclopedias Wikipedia should be used to get a general idea about a subject and then direct users to further sources. Most of all, Brown's study gives confidence that people can start getting more involved in politics by starting with Wikipedia.

"We don't need to worry about Wikipedia just because it's not Britannica, but that does not mean it is your stopping point," Brown said.

Explore further: Teachers' scare tactics may lead to lower exam scores

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Which politicians do voters blame for the down economy?

Aug 17, 2010

A down economy usually spells trouble for incumbents, but a new Brigham Young University study shows that six Republicans up for re-election this year caught a break when John McCain lost the last presidential election.

Study finds major U.S. newspapers are warming up to Wikipedia

Apr 12, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Major newspapers in the United States are referencing Wikipedia more often and framing the online encyclopedia more positively in stories, according to a study by a pair of faculty researchers in the Virginia ...

Study suggests doctors could add to Wikipedia

Apr 30, 2009

(AP) -- Researchers are suggesting that doctors could be spending more time writing and editing Wikipedia pages on medical topics, despite questions that have been raised about the collaborative online encyclopedia's ...

Recommended for you

Teachers' scare tactics may lead to lower exam scores

1 hour ago

As the school year winds down and final exams loom, teachers may want to avoid reminding students of the bad consequences of failing a test because doing so could lead to lower scores, according to new research published ...

Poll: Big Bang a big question for most Americans

8 hours ago

Few Americans question that smoking causes cancer. But they have more skepticism than confidence in global warming, the age of the Earth and evolution and have the most trouble believing a Big Bang created the universe 13.8 ...

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

Apr 18, 2014

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

Apr 17, 2014

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

Apr 17, 2014

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

6_6
not rated yet Apr 15, 2011
pff more like opinionbiasedopedia

More news stories

Hyperbolic homogeneous polynomials, oh my!

Cutting-edge mathematics today, at least to the uninitiated, often sounds as if it bears no relation to the arithmetic we all learned in grade school. What do topology and combinatorics and n-dimensional ...

Teachers' scare tactics may lead to lower exam scores

As the school year winds down and final exams loom, teachers may want to avoid reminding students of the bad consequences of failing a test because doing so could lead to lower scores, according to new research published ...

Poll: Big Bang a big question for most Americans

Few Americans question that smoking causes cancer. But they have more skepticism than confidence in global warming, the age of the Earth and evolution and have the most trouble believing a Big Bang created the universe 13.8 ...