Social Media Widens (And Narrows) Our Political Views, Says Study

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Your political stance and opinions may change over time depending on who you follow on Twitter and Facebook, suggests a new study.

Equally, and for the same reasons, they might stay exactly the same.

Why? Because who we choose to follow on social networking sites directly impacts the news and content that we see in our streams every day of the week. If we only follow users with the same opinions as our own, our attitudes are unlikely to change. Indeed, if anything, they’ll strengthen, as our view of the world will seem to reflect others’ view of the world.

Conversely, if we follow and engage with people with different opinions to our own our world view might shift accordingly.

“Two users of Twitter might be exposed to very different content based on which accounts they choose to follow, while two people reading the local newspaper might read different stories but at the end of the day it’s the same content they’re exposed to,” said Brian Knight, who co-authored the paper.

The study analysed more than two million political Twitter users during the 2012 election, and found that 90 percent of of the tweets that liberal voters saw came from Democrats, and 90 percent of the tweets conservative voters saw came from Republicans.

The data showed that if people saw tweets at random, about half would have come from each political party.

“As we move from a world in which traditional media outlets control the content we receive to a world in which most of the content is coming from our friends, it’s really important to understand who your friends are,” said Pablo Barberá, a doctoral candidate in politics at New York University.

“In political science, we know that who you speak to is very important in your voting decisions and political identity, and I think increased use of these platforms is going to make network behavior even more relevant in politics,” he added.

(Source: New York Times.)