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Political science. Exposure to ideologically diverse news and opinion on Facebook


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Exposure to news, opinion and civic information increasingly occurs through social media. How do these online networks influence exposure to perspectives that cut across ideological lines? Using de-identified data, we examined how 10.1 million U.S. Facebook users interact with socially shared news. We directly measured ideological homophily in friend networks, and examine the extent to which heterogeneous friends could potentially expose individuals to cross-cutting content. We then quantified the extent to which individuals encounter comparatively more or less diverse content while interacting via Facebook's algorithmically ranked News Feed, and further studied users' choices to click through to ideologically discordant content. Compared to algorithmic ranking, individuals' choices about what to consume had a stronger effect limiting exposure to cross-cutting content. Copyright © 2015, American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Exposure to ideologically diverse
news and opinion on Facebook
Eytan Bakshy,
*Solomon Messing,
Lada A. Adamic
Exposure to news, opinion, and civic information increasingly occurs through social media.
How do these online networks influence exposure to perspectives that cut across ideological
lines? Using deidentified data, we examined how 10.1 million U.S. Facebook users interact with
socially shared news. We directly measured ideological homophily in friend networks and
examined the extent to which heterogeneous friends could potentially expose individuals to
cross-cutting content. We then quantified the extent to which individuals encounter
comparatively more or less diverse content while interacting via Facebooks algorithmically
ranked News Feed and further studied userschoices to click through to ideologicallydiscordant
content. Compared with algorithmic ranking, individualschoices played a stronger role in
limiting exposure to cross-cutting content.
Exposure to news and civic information is
increasingly mediated through online social
networks and personalization (1). Informa-
tion abundance provides individuals with
an unprecedented number of options, shift-
ing the function of curating content from news-
room editorial boards to individuals, their social
networks, and manual or algorithmic information
sorting (24). Although these technologies have
the potential to expose individuals to more di-
verse viewpoints (4,5), they also have the po-
tential to limit exposure to attitude-challenging
information (2,3,6), which is associated with the
adoption of more extreme attitudes over time (7)
and misperception of facts about current events
(8). This changing environment has led to specu-
lation around the creation of echo chambers
(in which individuals are exposed only to infor-
mation from like-minded individuals) and filter
bubbles(in which content is selected by algo-
rithms according to a viewers previous behav-
iors), which are devoid of attitude-challenging
content (3,9). Empirical attempts to examine
these questions have been limited by difficul-
ties in measuring news storiesideological lean-
ings (10) and measuring exposurerelying on
either error-laden, retrospective self-reports or
behavioral data with limited generalizability
and have yielded mixed results (4,9,1115).
We used a large, comprehensive data set from
Facebook that allows us to (i) compare the ideo-
logical diversity of the broad set of news and
opinion shared on Facebook with that shared
by individualsfriend networks, (ii) compare this
with the subset of stories that appear in indi-
vidualsalgorithmically ranked News Feeds, and
(iii) observe what information individuals choose
to consume, given exposure on News Feed. We
constructed a deidentified data set that in-
cludes 10.1 million active U.S. users who self-
report their ideological affiliation and 7 million
distinct Web links (URLs) shared by U.S. users
over a 6-month period between 7 July 2014 and
7 January 2015. We classified stories as either
hard(such as national news, politics, or world
affairs) or softcontent (such as sports, enter-
tainment, or travel) by training a support vector
machine on unigram, bigram, and trigram text
features (details are available in the supplemen-
tary materials, section S1.4.1). Approximately
13% of these URLs were classified as hard con-
tent. We further limited the set of hard news
URLs to the 226,000 distinct hard-content URLs
shared by at least 20 users who volunteered their
ideological affiliation in their profile, so that
we could accurately measure ideological align-
ment. This data set included ~3.8 billion po-
tential exposures (cases in which an individuals
friend shared hard content, regardless of whether
it appeared in her News Feed), 903 million ex-
posures (cases in which a link to the content
and 59 million clicks, among users in our study.
We then obtained a measure of content align-
ment (A) for each hard story by averaging the
ideological affiliation of each user who shared
the article. Alignment is not a measure of me-
dia slant; rather, it captures differences in the
kind of content shared among a set ofpartisans,
which can include topic matter, framing, and
slant. These scores, averaged over websites,
capture key differences in well-known ideolog-
ically aligned media sources: is
aligned with conservatives (A
= +.80), whereas
the is aligned with liberals
=0.65) (additional detail and validation are
provided in the supplementary materials, sec-
tion S1.4.2). We observed substantial polariza-
tion among hard content shared by users, with
the most frequently shared links clearly aligned
with largely liberal or conservative populations
(Fig. 1).
The flow of information on Facebook is struc-
tured by how individuals are connected in the
network. The interpersonal networks on Face-
book are different from the segregated structure
of political blogs (16); although there is clustering
according to political affiliation on Facebook,
there are also many friendships that cut across
ideological affiliations. Among friendships with
individuals who report their ideological affilia-
tion in their profile, the median proportion of
friendships that liberals maintain with conserva-
tives is 0.20, interquartile range (IQR) [0.09,
0.36]. Similarly, the median proportion of friend-
ships that conservatives maintain with liberals is
0.18, IQR [0.09, 0.30] (Fig. 2).
How much cross-cutting content individuals
encounter depends on who their friends are and
what information those friends share. If individ-
uals acquired information from random others,
~45% of the hard content that liberals would be
exposed to would be cross-cutting, compared with
40% for conservatives (Fig. 3B). Of course, individ-
uals do not encounter information at random in
offline environments (14)norontheInternet(9).
Despite the slightly higher volume of conserv-
atively aligned articles shared (Fig. 1), liberals
tend to be connected to fewer friends who share
information from the other side, compared with
their conservative counterparts: Of the hard news
stories shared by liberalsfriends, 24% are cross-
cutting, compared with 35% for conservatives
(Fig. 3B).
The media that individuals consume on Face-
book depends not only on what their friends
share but also on how the News Feed ranking
1130 5JUNE2015VOL 348 ISSUE 6239 SCIENCE
Facebook, Menlo Park, CA 94025, USA.
School of
Information, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.
*Corresponding author. E-mail: These
authors contributed equally to this work.
Fig. 1. Distribution of ideolo-
gical alignment of content
shared on Facebook mea-
sured as the average affilia-
tion of sharers weighted by
the total number of shares.
Content was delineated as
liberal, conservative, or neutral
on the basis of the distribution
of alignment scores (details
are available in the supple-
mentary materials).
−1 0 1
Alignment score
Proportion of shares
Alignment classification
on August 13, 2015www.sciencemag.orgDownloaded from on August 13, 2015www.sciencemag.orgDownloaded from on August 13, 2015www.sciencemag.orgDownloaded from
algorithm sorts these articles and what indi-
viduals choose to read (Fig. 3A). The order in
which users see stories in the News Feed de-
pends on many factors, including how often
the viewer visits Facebook, how much they in-
teract with certain friends, and how often users
have clicked on links to certain websites in
News Feed in the past. We found that after
ranking, there is on average slightly less cross-
cutting content: The risk ratio comparing the
probability of seeing cross-cutting content rel-
ative to ideologically consistent content is 5% for
conservatives and 8% for liberals (supplemen-
tary materials, section S1.7).
Individual choice futher limits exposure to
ideologically cross-cutting content. After adjust-
ing for the effect of position [the click rate on a
link is negatively correlated with its position in
the News Feed (fig. S5)], we estimated the risk
ratio comparing the likelihood that an individ-
ual clicks on a cross-cutting content relative to
a consistent content to be 17% for conservatives
and 6% for liberals, a pattern that is consistent
with prior research (4,17). Despite these tend-
encies, there is substantial room for individuals
to consume more media from the other side; on
average, viewers clicked on 7% of hard content
available in their feeds.
Our analysis has limitations. Although the vast
majority of U.S. social media users are on Face-
book (18), our study is limited to active users who
volunteer an ideological affiliation on this so-
cial media platform. Facebooks users tend to be
younger, more educated, and more often female
as compared with the U.S. population as a whole
(18). Other forms of social media, such as blogs
or Twitter, have been shown to exhibit different
patterns of homophily among politically inter-
ested users, largely because ties tend primarily to
form based on common topical interests and/
or specific content (16,19), whereas Facebook
ties primarily reflect many different offline so-
cial contexts: school, family, social activities, and
work, which have been found to be fertile ground
for fostering cross-cutting social ties (20). In ad-
dition, our distinction between exposure and
consumption is imperfect; individuals may read
the summaries of articles that appear in the News
Feed and therefore be exposed to some of the
articlescontent without clicking through.
This work informs long-standing questions
about how media exposure is shaped by our so-
cial networks. Although partisans tend to main-
tain relationships with like-minded contacts
[which is consistent with (21)], on average more
than 20% of an individuals Facebook friends
who report an ideological affiliation are from the
opposing party, leaving substantial room for ex-
posure to opposing viewpoints (22,23). Further-
more, in contrast to concerns that people might
listen and speak only to the like-mindedwhile
online (6), we found exposure to cross-cutting
content (Fig. 3B) along a hypothesized route:
traditional media shared in social media (4,24).
Perhaps unsurprisingly, we show that the com-
position of our friend networks is the most impor-
tant factor limiting the mix of content encountered
in social media. The way that sharing occurs
within these networks is not symmetric: Lib-
erals tend to be connected to fewer friends who
share conservative content than are conserva-
tives (who tend to be linked to more friends who
share liberal content).
Within the population under study here, indi-
vidual choices (2,13,15,17) more than algorithms
(3,9) limit exposure to attitude-challenging con-
tent in the context of Facebook. Despite the
differences in what individuals consume across
ideological lines, our work suggests that individ-
uals are exposed to more cross-cutting discourse
in social media than they would be under the
digital reality envisioned by some (2,6). Rather
than people browsing only ideologically aligned
news sources or opting out of hard news alto-
gether, our work shows that social media expose
SCIENCE 5JUNE2015VOL 348 ISSUE 6239 1131
Potential from network Exposed Selected
Proportion of content
that is cross-cutting
Stage in media
exposure process
Random Potential
from network
Exposed Selected
Percent cross−cutting content
Viewer affiliation
Fig. 3. Cross-cutting content at
each stage in the diffusion pro-
cess. (A) Illustration of how
algorithmic ranking and individual
choice affect the proportion of ideo-
logically cross-cutting content that
individuals encounter. Gray circles
illustrate the content present at each
stage in the media exposure process.
Red circles indicate conservatives,
and blue circles indicate liberals. (B)
Average ideological diversity of con-
tent (i) shared by random others
(random), (ii) shared by friends
(potential from network), (iii) actually
appeared in usersNews Feeds
(exposed), and (iv) users clicked on
Fig. 2. Homophily in
self-reported ideologi-
cal affiliation. Propor-
tion of links to friends of
different ideological
affiliations for liberal,
moderate, and conserv-
ative users. Points indi-
cate medians, thick lines
indicate interquartile
ranges, and thin lines
represent 10th to 90th
percentile ranges.
Liberal friends
Moderate friends
Conservative friends
Liberal friends
Moderate friends
Conservative friends
Liberal friends
Moderate friends
Conservative friends
Liberals Moderates Conservatives
0% 25% 50% 75% 100%
Percentage of ties
individuals to at least some ideologically cross-
cutting viewpoints (4). Of course, we do not
pass judgment on the normative value of cross-
cutting exposure. Although normative scholars
often argue that exposure to a diverse market-
place of ideasis key to a healthy democracy
(25), a number of studies have found that expo-
sure to cross-cutting viewpoints is associated with
lower levels of political participation (22,26,27).
Regardless, our work suggests that the power
to e xpose oneself to perspectives from the other
side in social media lies first and foremost with
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We thank J. Bailenson, D. Eckles, A. Franco, K. Garrett, J. Grimmer,
S. Iyengar, B. Karrer, C. Nass, A. Peysakhovich, S. Taylor, R. Weiss,
S. Westwood, J. M. White, and anonymous reviewers for their
valuable feedback. The following code and data are archived in the
Harvard Dataverse Network,
LDJ7MS: Replication Data for: Exposure to Ideologically Diverse
News and Opinion on Facebook; R analysis code and aggregate
data for deriving the main results (tables S5 and S6); Python code
and dictionaries for training and testing the hard-soft news
classifier; aggregate summary statistics of the distribution of
ideological homophily in networks; and aggregate summary
statistics of the distribution of ideological alignment for hard
content shared by the top 500 most shared websites. The authors
of this work are employed and funded by Facebook. Facebook did
not place any restrictions on the design and publication of this
observational study, beyond the requirement that this work was to
be done in compliance with Facebooks Data Policy and research
ethics review process (
Materials and Methods
Supplementary Text
Figs. S1 to S10
Tables S1 to S6
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20 October 2014; accepted 27 April 2015
Published online 7 May 2015;
Climate change tightens a metabolic
constraint on marine habitats
Curtis Deutsch,
*Aaron Ferrel,
Brad Seibel,
Hans-Otto Pörtner,
Raymond B. Huey
Warming of the oceans and consequent loss of dissolved oxygen (O
) will alter marine
ecosystems, but a mechanistic framework to predict the impact of multiple stressors on
viable habitat is lacking. Here, we integrate physiological, climatic, and biogeographic data
to calibrate and then map a key metabolic indexthe ratio of O
supply to resting
metabolic O
demandacross geographic ranges of several marine ectotherms. These
species differ in thermal and hypoxic tolerances, but their contemporary distributions are
all bounded at the equatorward edge by a minimum metabolic index of ~2 to 5, indicative of
a critical energetic requirement for organismal activity. The combined effects of warming
and O
loss this century are projected to reduce the upper oceans metabolic index by
~20% globally and by ~50% in northern high-latitude regions, forcing poleward and
vertical contraction of metabolically viable habitats and species ranges.
Climate change is altering ecosystems by
shifting distributions, phenologies, and in-
teractions among species, but understand-
ing how these changes are caused by climatic
influences on physiology and fitness re-
mains a challenge (1). In the ocean, increased
metabolic rates due to rising temperatures will be
tially restricting organismal aerobic capacities
(24). The physiology of hypoxic and thermal tol-
erance of marine species is well understood (3,57).
Lacking, however, is a general mechanistic model
that quantifies how O
and temperature jointly
restrict large-scale biogeographic distributions
now and in the future. Here, we combine labora-
tory and field data to demonstrate that temper-
ature and O
together limit the contemporary
pirically based estimates of habitat loss in the
warmer and less oxygenated oceans projected
by this centurys end.
For marine habitats to be metabolically viable,
the environmental O
supply rate (S) must ex-
ceed an animals resting metabolic demand (D).
supply increases with ambient O
pressure (PO
) and with respiratory efficacy (8).
Thus, S¼aSBdPO2, where respiratory efficacy is
the product of a
, a per-mass rate of gas transfer
between water and animal and its scaling with
body mass, Bd. Resting metabolic demand also
scales with Band with absolute temperature (T),
according to D¼aDBeexpðEo=kBTÞ,whereaD
is a taxon-specific baseline metabolic rate, eis its
allometric scaling, E
is its temperature depen-
dence, and k
is Boltzmanns constant (9).
We define a metabolic index, denoted F,as
the ratio of O
supply to an organisms resting
where A
is the ratio of rate coefficients
for O
supply and metabolic rate, and nis the dif-
ference between the respective allometric scalings
(n=de). If Ffalls below a critical thres hold
value of 1, organisms must either suppress aerobic
activity (5) or initiate anaerobic metabolism, con-
ditions that are physiologically unsustainable. Con-
versely, values above 1 enable organismal metabolic
ratestoincreasebyafactorofFabove resting
levels, permitting critical activities such as feeding,
defense, growth, and reproduction. Thus, for a
given environment, Festimates the ratio of maxi-
mum sustainable metabolic rate to the minimum
rate necessary for maintenance for a given species.
We analyzed data from published studies in
which hypoxia tolerance was determined at
1132 5JUNE2015VOL 348 ISSUE 6239 SCIENCE
School of Oceanography, University of Washington, Seattle,
WA 98195, USA.
Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic
Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095,
Biological Sciences Department, University of Rhode
Island, Kingston, RI 02881, USA.
Alfred Wegener Institute,
D-27570 Bremerhaven, Germany.
Department of Biology,
University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.
*Corresponding author. E-mail: Present
address: Los Angeles Unified School District, Los Angeles, CA
90085, USA.
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa1160
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Growing levels of political polarization in the United States have been associated with political homogeneity in the personal networks of American adults. The 2016 Presidential Election in the United States was a polarizing event that may have caused further loss of connections to alters who had different politics. Kinship may protect against loss of politically different ties. Additionally, loss of ties with different political views may be particularly pronounced among LGBTQ+ people as they are more likely to be impacted by public policy decisions compared to their heterosexual counterparts. We analyzed two waves of the University of California, Berkeley Social Networks Study's (UCNets) Main Sample and LGBTQ+ Oversample of older adults that occurred in 2015 and 2017, which provided an opportunity to assess alter loss after the 2016 Presidential Election. When evaluating all adults, we found that politically different alters were more likely to reflect kin ties than partner or friend ties. We also found that politically different kin are less likely to be dropped suggesting that kinship acts as a moderating effect of different political views on alter loss. LGBTQ+ respondents were more likely to drop kin alters with different political views than their cisgender heterosexual counterparts. We discuss the implications these results have for political polarization interventions as well as the social networks impact politics can have on LGBTQ+ individuals.
... However, whether this leads to actual polarization [3,4,5] is still debated. Some argue that the very nature of social networks, i.e., the socialization of information consumption, may counteract the above effects [6], others that individual choices (to bond with similar others and to prefer concordant information) are more predominant than algorithmic filtering [7], others again that exposure to opposing views is more likely to actually backfire than to widen our perspectives [8]. To make matter worse, information may not only be partisan but it could also be blatantly fake [9]. ...
For decades, researchers have been trying to understand how people form their opinions. This quest has become even more pressing with the widespread usage of online social networks and social media, which seem to amplify the already existing phenomenon of polarization. In this work, we study the problem of polarization assuming that opinions evolve according to the popular Friedkin-Johnsen (FJ) model. The FJ model is one of the few existing opinion dynamics models that has been validated on small/medium-sized social groups. First, we carry out a comprehensive survey of the FJ model in the literature (distinguishing its main variants) and of the many polarization metrics available, deriving an invariant relation among them. Secondly, we derive the conditions under which the FJ variants are able to induce opinion polarization in a social network, as a function of the social ties between the nodes and their individual susceptibility to the opinion of others. Thirdly, we discuss a methodology for finding concrete opinion vectors that are able to bring the network to a polarized state. Finally, our analytical results are applied to two real social network graphs, showing how our theoretical findings can be used to identify polarizing conditions under various configurations.
... News providers expect proximal cues to invite users to the full-length news; by contrast, users appear to expect the less effort-intensive proximal cues (or "snack news"; Sch€ afer et al., 2017) to inform them equally well as the complete article. Bakshy et al. (2015) report that only 7% of their participants click through to the full story after exposure to political posts on Facebook, a behavior that requires more cognitive effort and time than merely scanning feeds. ...
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nos planteamos como objetivo general de la presente investigación identificar cómo se producen las mediaciones en los medios sociales digitales, en relación con los fenómenos de desestructuración de la comunicación pública y proliferación de noticias falsas que han sido identificados por la literatura académica. Como objetivos específicos, esta investigación se planteó: identificar cómo se producen las mediaciones en relación con el fenómeno de desestructuración de la comunicación pública, esto es, la presunta generación de burbujas de opinión y procesos de polarización y radicalización, que la literatura académica contemporánea viene identificando en relación con los medios sociales digitales; e identificar cómo se producen las mediaciones en relación con el fenómeno de la proliferación de noticias falsas y de campañas de propaganda personalizada que tienen como objetivo la manipulación de la opinión pública. Para estudiar el tema, encontramos que el contexto de la pandemia ofrecía una oportunidad sumamente desafiante. Desde el inicio de la pandemia por COVID-19 empezaron a circular con fuerza discursos de dudosa veracidad referidos al origen de la enfermedad, a las supuestas intencionalidades políticas y económicas detrás de las 8 medidas de cuarentena, a los riesgos de la vacunación, entre otros. En estos discursos se expresaban no solo noticias falsas sobre la salud (tratamientos sin respaldo científico o automedicación), sino narrativas que disputaban el significado político de la pandemia. Así pues, decidimos investigar, desde una perspectiva de las mediaciones, los fenómenos de proliferación de noticias falsas y desestructuración del espacio público en los medios sociales digitales, en el contexto de la pandemia por COVID-19.
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In this study, we focus on the question to what extent social media is present in governmental and political communication. Social platforms have provided entirely new opportunities for interaction between individuals, but with the appearence of the internet, the polarization between the private and public sector has undergone significant changes. In the beginning, there was predominantly interaction between smaller communities, but with time communities sharing the same interests started to use these platforms to keep in permanent dialogue with the members. The new social platforms gradually took over public service functions, while slowly "infiltrating" political communication. Nowadays, government officials are rarely left the choice whether or not to be present and to participate on social media, since these platforms offer themselves for a significant presence for both individuals and non-traditional interest groups. Politicians responded rather quickly to the changes brought by this new medium, increasingly using social platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and various blogs, for manifesting themselves online, gaining, thus, ever more support/visibility. As a result, personal profiles originally created by individuals and as such belonging to the private sphere by being politicized take on a public character-especially in Anglo-Saxon countries, where the relationship between public figures and citizens is less formalised. In the United States by the late 2000s, social media appeared as a tool of political campaigns, paving already the way for fake news, as we seen. Politicians now make extensive use of social platforms, but in my wiew, they do not always do so in good faith.We briefly explore the psychology of the truth value of statements in political communication and their social and legal perception, as well as their relation to free speech-based on studies. In this context, we briefly discussed the role of gatekeepers, bearing in mind the differences in respective regulations in Europe and the United States. We examined two government cases in the United States and looked for answers in news and articles concerning the results of the 2020 presidential election and President Trump's campaign during the coronavirus pandemic. As to the outcome of the election, we analyzed the decisions of social platforms connected to the social media appearance of former President Trump which resulted in his banning from social media. This question was important because, as a result of our study, there would be a need for closer regulation of social platforms that can strongly define and distort political and governmental communication (because of political users). Targeting messages is more efficiently on social platforms to large amount of people, and it is very important, that there won't be false informations.
The majority of internet users today find their news on social media (Gil de Zúñiga et al. 2017), however, media trust, and especially trust in social media is low. (Edelman 2019) In growing political polarization the effects of perceived media hostility are also gaining more importance. In this research internet users of international news participated in an online experiment to assess how issue involvement on the 2020 military conflict between the United States and Iran correlates with general trust in the media and with the credibility of the largest social media network, Facebook, as a news source. The current research investigated whether the hostile media effect still occurs in a purely social media context and results showed that partisans (those with a strong supporting or opposing opinion on the military conflict) perceive news content on Facebook as hostile along the same lines as they do in a traditional media context. Current study fills the literature gap of the hostile media effect in a social media context. Findings may also have implications for the news industry as to how journalist roles influence users’ perceptions.
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In this study we investigate how social media shape the networked public sphere and facilitate communication between communities with different political orientations. We examine two networks of political communication on Twitter, comprised of more than 250,000 tweets from the six weeks leading up to the 2010 U.S. congressional midterm elections. Using a combination of network clustering algorithms and manually-annotated data we demonstrate that the network of political retweets exhibits a highly segregated partisan structure, with extremely limited connectivity between left- and right-leaning users. Surprisingly this is not the case for the user-to-user mention network, which is dominated by a single politically heterogeneous cluster of users in which ideologically-opposed individuals interact at a much higher rate compared to the network of retweets. To explain the distinct topologies of the retweet and mention networks we conjecture that politically motivated individuals provoke interaction by injecting partisan content into information streams whose primary audience consists of ideologically-opposed users. We conclude with statistical evidence in support of this hypothesis.
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We demonstrate that social media data represent a useful resource for testing models of legislative and individual-level political behavior and attitudes. First, we develop a model to estimate the ideology of politicians and their supporters using social media data on individual citizens’ endorsements of political figures. Our measure allows us to place politicians and more than 6 million citizens who are active in social media on the same metric. We validate the ideological estimates that result from the scaling process by showing they correlate highly with existing measures of ideology from Congress, and with individual-level self-reported political views. Finally, we use these measures to study the relationship between ideology and age, social relationships and ideology, and the relationship between friend ideology and turnout.
This study provides the first direct assessment of the extent to which citizens encounter news and opinion challenging their political views via mass media. The widely accepted conjecture that people refuse to hear the other side is based upon self-reports of media exposure, rather than direct observation of it. In light of this long-acknowledged limitation, I leverage unique data tracking partisanship as well as actual exposure to media collected 24/7 via passive tracking devices. Contrary to previous understandings, the vast majority of citizens consume predominately centrist information, while frequently encountering ideological programming challenging their views. In fact, the best predictor of how much conservative news you watch is how much liberal news you watch, regardless of partisanship. The demonstration of widespread exposure to diverse viewpoints challenges claims asserting that resistance to political influence occurs at the exposure stage of the persuasion process.
What happens to democracy and free speech if people use the Internet to listen and speak only to the like-minded? What is the benefit of the Internet's unlimited choices if citizens narrowly filter the information they receive? Cass Sunstein first asked these questions in 2001' Now, 2.0, Sunstein thoroughly rethinks the critical relationship between democracy and the Internet in a world where partisan Weblogs have emerged as a significant political 2.0highlights new research on how people are using the Internet, especially the blogosphere. Sunstein warns against "information cocoons" and "echo chambers," wherein people avoid the news and opinions that they don't want to hear. He also demonstrates the need to regulate the innumerable choices made possible by technology. His proposed remedies and reforms emphasize what consumers and producers can do to help avoid the perils, and realize the promise, of the Internet.
We use national survey data to examine the extent to which various sources of political information expose people to dissimilar political views. We hypothesize that the individual's ability and desire to exercise selective exposure is a key factor in determining whether a given source produces exposure to dissimilar views. Although a lack of diverse perspectives is a common complaint against American news media, we find that individuals are exposed to far more dissimilar political views via news media than through interpersonal political discussants. The media advantage is rooted in the relative difficulty of selectively exposing oneself to those sources of information, as well as the lesser desire to do so, given the impersonal nature of mass media.
Scholars have argued that online social networks and personalized web search increase ideological segregation. We investigate the impact of these potentially polarizing channels on news consumption by examining web browsing histories for 50,000 U.S.-located users who regularly read online news. We find that individuals indeed exhibit substantially higher segregation when reading articles shared on social networks or returned by search engines, a pattern driven by opinion pieces. However, these polarizing articles from social media and web search constitute only 2% of news consumption. Consequently, while recent technological changes do increase ideological segregation, the magnitude of the effect is limited.
This study advances our understanding of "cross-pressures," a concept recognized in the earliest studies of American voting, but for which empirical evidence and theoretical development has been sorely lacking. Although the current consensus suggests that political cross-pressures are of little, if any, consequence for political participation, I find that people whose networks involve greater political disagreement are less likely to participate in politics. Two social psychological processes are suggested to account for this effect. First, those embedded in cross-cutting social and political networks are, as a consequence, more likely to hold ambivalent political views, which in turn discourage political involvement. Second, social accountability pressures in cross-cutting networks discourage political participation; the inherently controversial nature of politics is perceived to pose threats to the harmony of social relationships.