Students of the Same Opinion Flock Together. The Interplay of Homophily and Influence in Forming Homogenous Opinion Networks.
25 Pages Posted: 28 Aug 2019
Date Written: August 25, 2019
Many studies report homogeneity regarding political opinions within friendship networks. Two mechanisms, homophily and influence, can lead to this empirical finding. Homophily describes a selection mechanism whereby individuals with similar opinions are more likely to befriend each other. Influence means that individuals are directly influenced by their friends. Furthermore, it is assumed that political discussions are a transmission mode for political opinions and thus increase the effects of homophily and influence. Theoretically, it can be assumed that both mechanisms are at work, however, empirically it is difficult to separate the effects from each other. To investigate both mechanisms and their interaction with political discussion, stochastic actor-based co-evolution models are estimated. The data for the analysis was collected in a three-wave survey panel among students during their first semester at university. The results indicate that both mechanisms can impact network homogeneity, however, which mechanism is at work depends on the contemporary nature of the topic. The analyses also show that political discussions do not increase the effect of homophily and influence.
Keywords: friendship networks, political opinion, selection, influence, stochastic actor-based co-evolution models
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