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Monday, March 12, 2012

Social Networking Sites and Politics

It turns out that birds of a feather don’t always flock together on social networking sites when it comes to politics. There is evidence in a new survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project that on social networking sites (SNS):
  • Friends disagree with friends about political issues and usually let their disagreements pass without comment. Among the SNS users whose friends post political content, 25% always agree or mostly agree with their friends’ political postings; 73% of these SNS users “only sometimes” agree or never agree with their friends’ political postings. When they disagree with others’ posts, 66% of these SNS users say they usually ignore the posts; 28% said they usually respond with comments or posts of their own; and 5% said it depends on the circumstances.
  • Users can be surprised to learn the political leanings of their friends. Some 38% of SNS users have discovered through a friend’s posts that his/her political beliefs were different than the user thought they were.
As a rule, the most active and engaged political participants on SNS sit at opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, yet their experiences around political material on SNS are quite similar. Very liberal users and very conservative users are often the most likely to have acted for and against others on SNS. They are also more likely than others to have been surprised by their friends’ political views and to be in networks where they agree with what their friends post. Still, even with them, there is as much frequency of disagreement as there is of agreement.
Overall, the new survey found that 80% of American adults use the internet and 66% of those online adults participate in social networking sites (SNS) such as Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+. That amounts to more than half of the entire U.S. population who are SNS users. When it comes to SNS users, the internet users who describe their political ideology as moderate or liberal are more likely than conservatives to use social networking sites: 74% of internet users who describe themselves as liberal use SNS and 70% of internet users who are moderate are SNS users – that compares with 60% of conservative internet users who are SNS users.