Of echo chambers and contrarian clubs: Exposure to political disagreement among German and Italian users of Twitter
journal contributionposted on 25.01.2018, 13:51 authored by Cristian VaccariCristian Vaccari, Augusto Valeriani, Pablo Barbera, John T. Jost, Jonathan Nagler, Joshua A. Tucker
Scholars have debated whether social media platforms, by allowing users to select the information to which they are exposed, may lead people to isolate themselves from viewpoints with which they disagree, thereby serving as political “echo chambers.” We investigate hypotheses concerning the circumstances under which Twitter users who communicate about elections would engage with (a) supportive, (b) oppositional, and (c) mixed political networks. Based on online surveys of representative samples of Italian and German individuals who posted at least one Twitter message about elections in 2013, we find substantial differences in the extent to which social media facilitates exposure to similar versus dissimilar political views. Our results suggest that exposure to supportive, oppositional, or mixed political networks on social media can be explained by broader patterns of political conversation (i.e., structure of offline networks) and specific habits in the political use of social media (i.e., the intensity of political discussion). These findings suggest that disagreement persists on social media even when ideological homophily is the modal outcome, and that scholars should pay more attention to specific situational and dispositional factors when evaluating the implications of social media for political communication.
We acknowledge the support of the Italian Ministry of Education “Future in Research 2012” initiative (project code RBFR12BKZH) and the INSPIRE program of the National Science Foundation (Awards # SES-1248077 and # SES-1248077-001) as well as New York University’s Global Institute for Advanced Study (GIAS) and Dean Thomas Carew’s Research Investment Fund (RIF). Pablo Barberá gratefully acknowledges financial support from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. This article is the product of a collaboration between the research projects “Building Inclusive Societies and a Global Europe Online”(http://www.webpoleu.net) at the University of Bologna and “Social Media and Political Participation” (http://smapp.nyu.edu/) at New York University.
- Social Sciences
- Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies