Social Network Politicos Find Controversy

According to a new survey by the Pew Research Center, chatter in people’s social networks (SNS) about political issues yields surprising revelations about people’s views; 18% of users have shunned “friends” who have different ideas and 16% have found friends whose beliefs match their own.

There is evidence in the survey that “birds of a feather don’t always flock together on social networking sites” when it comes to politics, says the report:

  • 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. 38% of SNS users have discovered through a friend’s posts that his/her political beliefs were different than the user thought they were.

Democrats, liberals, and people with very conservative views were more likely than others to say that they had been surprised about someone’s views as they were expressed on SNS.

SNS Users Who Learned That A Friend’s Political Views Were Different Than They Thought

Party

% of Respondents

   Democrat

49%

   Republican

39

   Independent

32

Political View

 

   Very conservative

52

   Conservative

34

   Moderate

33

   Liberal

52

   Very liberal

54

Source: Pew Research Center, March 2012

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. 75% of SNS users say their friends post at least some content related to politics and 37% of SNS users post political material at least occasionally.

As a rule, says the report, 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.

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, compared to 60% of conservative internet users who are SNS users.

Users of Social Networking Sites (% of Category)

Characteristic

Overall Population

Internet Users

Liberal

60%

74%

Moderate

61

70

Conservative

49

60

Source: Pew Research Center, March 2012

The survey did find that a portion of SNS users have assessed some relationships based on political material that is posted on the sites. Some 18% of social networking site users have blocked, unfriended, or hidden someone for at least one of the following reasons:

  • 10% because that person posted too frequently about political subjects
  • 9% because they posted something about politics or issues that they disagreed with or found offensive
  • 8% because they argued about political issues on the site with the user or someone the user knows
  • 5% because they posted something about politics that the user worried would offend other friends
  • 4% of because they disagreed with something the user posted about politics

Liberals are the most likely to have taken each of these steps to block, unfriend, or hide. In all, 28% of liberals have blocked, unfriended, or hidden someone on SNS because of one of these reasons, compared with 16% of conservatives and 14% of moderates.

82% of SNS users have not taken any steps to ignore or disconnect from someone whose views are different, or have not encountered any views that would prompt such a move, says the report.

When they shun others based on political content, it is most often a distant friend or acquaintance, rather than a close friend or family member. But roughly a third of those who have ended contact on SNS say a family member or close friend was involved. At the other end of the scale, 16% of SNS users have friended or followed someone because that person shared the user’s political views. In addition:

  • 47% of SNS users have hit the “like” button in response to political comments or material posted by someone else
  • 38% have posted positive comments in response to a political post or status update from someone else

22% of SNS users say they have decided not to post political comments or links to political material because they were worried it might upset or offend someone. Some 77% of SNS users said they never acted this way.

For additional information from Pew, and access to the more complete PDF file, please visit here.

 

 

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1 comment about "Social Network Politicos Find Controversy".
  1. Sean Grace from CoupSmart , March 20, 2012 at 10:49 a.m.
    Yet another example of Google+ outdoing the others. The Circle set up is perfect for finding and following new people that interest you (through 'Search', 'Circle Sharing', etc.) whether they are your friend or not. Circles also allow you to easily share with the people you choose (those that share the belief, that like the discourse on a controversial topic, etc.) to communicate without bombarding others with unwanted content and straining relationships which are valuable in other ways.