Media use during conflicts: information seeking gratifications & efficacy during 2012 Mexican elections

Public access to accurate and reliable information is fundamental to democracy and democratic decision-making. In conditions of uncertainty and imperfect information, such as during political crises or controversial elections in emerging democracies, reliable information is often difficult to obtain. We investigated the uses and gratifications obtained from diverse information sources available to citizens during the months leading up to Presidential elections in Mexico in July 2012. Uses and gratifications theory states that information seeking is one of several primary needs or motivations for using different media. Reliability of information sources is key to gratification of this need. We conducted a survey about diverse information sources and their reliability with an opportunity sample of young adults at a public state university in Mexico. Our findings indicate that face-to-face and telephone communication with members of a respondent’s social network, as well as social media and online news sites, were the most reliable sources of information about the elections. Television broadcasting, especially from government channels, was the least reliable. These results suggest that in conditions of relative uncertainty and imperfect information, social media and alternative (online) news sources about political events are essential to sustaining an informed public.