Go Ahead and Post That Liberal Rant on Facebook. You Might Change Someone’s Mind

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Sept. 5 2012 5:55 PM

Go Ahead and Post That Liberal Rant on Facebook. You Might Change Someone’s Mind

pewinternetsurvey1
Source: Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project January 20-February 19, 2012 tracking survey.

Courtesy of Pew Internet & American Life Project

Thinking of posting a status update to let all your Facebook friends to know where you stand on the latest controversy over tax policy or immigration?

Will Oremus Will Oremus

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

Conventional wisdom: For the love of God, don’t!

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New thinking: Hey, that’s not a bad idea—especially if you’re a Democrat.

That, at any rate, is one possible takeaway from a new survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. The survey of 2,253 U.S. adults found that nearly half of Democrats who use social networking sites say those sites are important to them in keeping up with political news. About one in three Republican social-network users say the same.

Here’s the shocker: A few people even report changing their minds about an issue based on their friends’ political posts. They’re in the minority, to be sure: just 16 percent overall. Among self-described liberals, though, that number rises to 24 percent. And 39 percent of liberals say that political posts have motivated them to get more involved in an issue. (The figure is 24 percent for conservatives and 21 percent for moderates.)

Take that, cynical Facebook-meme purveyors.

Of course, your posts might also motivate people to reconsider being friends with you. But Pew finds that just 18 percent of social-network users have blocked, hidden, or unfriended people out of exasperation at their political screeds. And nearly as many report adding someone as a friend based on his or her political updates. So for every friend you’re alienating, you might be making a new one. (Disclaimer: New Facebook friends may not fully replace old friends in your offline life—especially if said old friends happen to be family members or your boss.)

One irony: While liberals are far more likely to be influenced by political posts, it’s the “very conservative” who are most likely to report that virtually everything they post is political. Apparently everyone just tunes them out.

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

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