The Accidental Pundit: Intention and Opportunity in Political Discussion

Posted: 16 Jun 2016

See all articles by Hyunjin Song

Hyunjin Song

University of Vienna - Department of Communication

William Minozzi

Ohio State University (OSU) - Department of Political Science

David Lazer

Northeastern University - Department of Political Science; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Michael A. Neblo

Ohio State University (OSU) - Department of Political Science

Katherine Ognyanova

Rutgers University

Date Written: June 16, 2016

Abstract

Informal political discussion plays a crucial role in democracy, yet its importance depends in large part on diversity among conversation partners. If people select partners based on political similarity, however, such diversity will be hard to achieve. We develop two models of political conversation — intentional and accidental. The intentional model predicts that political similarity drives selection, while the accidental model implies that people end up talking together for other reasons that may induce a spurious correlation with politics. The two explanations have importantly different implications for the prospects of overcoming political echo chambers. To adjudicate between these accounts, we draw on a rich, longitudinal panel of whole network data, with information on a variety of social relationships, political attitudes, and demographics. We find that accidental, rather than intentional, processes shape political discussion networks. People do not choose their discussion partners on the basis political similarity, suggesting that the barriers to promoting diversity among discussants may be more fragile than previously thought.

Suggested Citation

Song, Hyunjin and Minozzi, William and Lazer, David and Neblo, Michael A. and Ognyanova, Katherine, The Accidental Pundit: Intention and Opportunity in Political Discussion (June 16, 2016). Forthcoming, 9th Annual Political Networks Workshops & Conference (PolNet 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2796448

Hyunjin Song (Contact Author)

University of Vienna - Department of Communication ( email )

Währinger Straße 29
Vienna, 1090
Austria

William Minozzi

Ohio State University (OSU) - Department of Political Science ( email )

Columbus, OH 43210
United States

David Lazer

Northeastern University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Boston, MA 02115
United States
617-373-2796 (Phone)
617-373-5311 (Fax)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Taubman Center
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-0102 (Phone)
617-496-1722 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.davidlazer.com

Michael A. Neblo

Ohio State University (OSU) - Department of Political Science ( email )

Columbus, OH 43210
United States

Katherine Ognyanova

Rutgers University

4 Huntington St.
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
United States

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