Study: Social Networks Not Total Political Echo Chambers

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
March 12 2012 5:51 PM

Study: Social Networks Not Total Political Echo Chambers

One common critique of the Internet is that it allows people to seal themselves off in like-minded echo chambers, away from those whose views they don’t like. But a new Pew study says that those who use social networking sites often come in contact with people who have different political views.

Seventy-five percent of users said that their friends discussed politics via social media, and 64 percent of users agreed with their friends only sometimes. Twenty-five percent agreed all or most of the time, and 9 percent never agreed. Additionally, 66 percent of users ignore when a friend posts a differing political view on a social media site. Another 28 percent respond with a comment or post. The majority of users surveyed do not receive negative reactions to their political posts, while 37 percent do get negative comments in response to their views.


This is fairly remarkable. As people move toward niche sites to read the news, social media are still somewhat pluralistic in terms of political discussion. People do come in contact with opposing viewpoints.

The social media world, though, isn’t entirely harmonious. The Pew study also found that social media users will block, unfriend, or hide someone based on politics: 18 percent of users had dropped a friend because of politics.

Additionally, the most ideological users were also most likely to agree with their friends’ political posts. Twenty percent of very liberal users and 17 percent of very conservative users always or almost always agreed with friends. Meanwhile, more moderate users agreed with friends far less.

Who’s most likely to block a friend based on political views? Liberals.. Twenty-eight percent had dropped a friend, while 16 percent of conservatives and 14 percent of moderates did so.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Caitlin Mac Neal is an intern for Future Tense.


Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.


Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 11:33 AM Planned Parenthood Is About to Make It a Lot Easier to Get Birth Control
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 5:03 PM White House Chief Information Officer Will Run U.S. Ebola Response
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.