Social Media Use Relates to Perceiving the United States as More Politically Polarized
15 Pages Posted: 14 Mar 2018
Date Written: March 9, 2018
Much research has examined the role news media and social media play in political polarization. There has been less focus on whether and how social media influences people’s perception of political polarization in society. In one study (N = 328), we examined whether increased social media use relates to perceiving the United States political climate as more or less polarized. Time spent on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) related to perceiving politics as more polarized. This relationship remained when controlling for other variables such as age and political orientation. Of participants who reported using social media, whether they used it for socializing or information gathering did not relate to their level of perceived political polarization. We conclude that spending time on social media, regardless of its purpose, relates to perceiving the United States as more politically polarized. Possible mechanisms and implications of this relationship are discussed.
Keywords: perceived political polarization, social media, information gathering
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