Diversity Without Disagreeability: A Multi-National Examination of Social Networks and Participation in Political Dialog

23 Pages Posted: 29 Jul 2019

See all articles by Ruth Shillair

Ruth Shillair

Michigan State University, Department of Media & Information

Laleah Fernandez

Michigan State University - Quello Center

Date Written: July 25, 2019

Abstract

It is widely understood that individuals think and act differently depending on the real or perceived political views of their discussion network. At the same time, there is a growing concern that self-selection and algorithmic selection into similarly minded imbalanced social networks are forming political discussion silos and echo chambers, where only one opinion is heard. As such, many are calling for social network providers to develop algorithms that filter messages, not only for veracity, but to provide a balance of viewpoints. While there is a growing consensus that a diversity of viewpoints is necessary for a healthy a democracy, the impact of exposure to opposing points of view on political expression and participation remain unclear (Boulianne, 2015). This study is based on a 2017 web-survey of over 14,000 internet users from 7 countries to examine cross-national variations of the user’s social media political discussion networks and the potential impacts on political participation. Even though participation in agreeable networks is high, as would be expected, we find that social media users who find themselves in the minority in a diverse social media network still participate and engage, especially those with higher online skills. The result of this analysis are discussed in terms of cross-national differences and the potential implications of forcing or filtering differing opinions within a network. These findings can lend insights into policy decisions related to algorithmic filtering and related attempts aimed at increasing exposure to diversity of viewpoints within social networks.

Keywords: online networks, social media, political particiation, diversity, agreeability

JEL Classification: 035, 038

Suggested Citation

Shillair, Ruth and Fernandez, Laleah, Diversity Without Disagreeability: A Multi-National Examination of Social Networks and Participation in Political Dialog (July 25, 2019). Quello Center Working Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3426604 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3426604

Ruth Shillair (Contact Author)

Michigan State University, Department of Media & Information ( email )

409 Communication Arts & Sciences Building
East Lansing, MI 48824-1212
United States

Laleah Fernandez

Michigan State University - Quello Center ( email )

406 Communication Arts Building
404 Wilson Road
East Lansing, MI 48824-1212
United States

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