SocNet Content Doesn’t Affect Most Users’ Political Views

September 4, 2012

This article is included in these additional categories:

African-American | Government & Politics | Hispanic | Social Media | Youth & Gen X

pew-socnet-impact-on-political-views-sep2012.pngMost social network users aren’t influenced by political content they encounter or engage with on these sites, details the [pdf] Pew Internet & American Life Project in a survey released in September. Just 16% of respondents said they had changed their views about a political issue after discussing it or reading posts about it on a social networking site. Respondents who identified as liberals were far more likely to report changing their views than those who identified as moderates or conservatives (24% vs. 18% and 11%, respectively).

Similarly, only one-quarter of the survey respondents report becoming more active or involved in a political issue as a result of discussing it or reading about it on a social networking site, though this outweighs the 9% who have become less involved as a result.

An earlier report from Pew, released in March, found that just 18% of social network users have taken some kind of step to ignore or disconnect from someone whose political views are different than theirs.

Conservatives Post More; Are Influenced Less

The lack of impact social network content has on users’ political views could be attributable a simple lack of political material being exchanged on these sites. Pew’s latest report suggests that only 16% of social networking users post more than just a little political content on these sites, with just 6% overall saying that most or all of what they have recently posted has been related to politics. They report more activity by their friends, though: 39% say that at least some of their friends’ material is political, with 9% saying most or all of their friends’ recent content has been related to politics. (It is worth noting that the survey was conducted in January or February, so these results could trend higher as the election nears.)

Despite conservatives being the least likely to say they have changed their view on account of political content on social networking sites, they are the most likely to say that all or almost all of what they post is politically-related, and are also more likely to say they have friends who post a lot of political content.

There are less differences along party lines, and the report stresses that the major takeaway is that most social networking users (84% of Republicans; 79% of Democrats; and 86% of Independents) say that they have posted little to no political content recently.

Half of Democrats Say SocNets Important for Political News

Details from Pew’s “Politics on Social Networking Sites” indicate that 48% of social networking users who identify as Democrats believe the sites are either somewhat or very important for keeping up with political news, compared to roughly one-third of Republicans and Independents. About one-third of Democrats say that the sites are at least somewhat important for: recruiting people to get involved with political issues that matter to them; finding other people that share their views about important political issues; and debating or discussing political issues with others. Only about one-quarter of Republicans and Independents said the same.

Other Findings:

  • Black social networking users were more likely than white or Hispanic users to say that the sites are at least somewhat important for political news and activities. 18-29-year-olds were also more likely than the average to hold these views.
  • Respondents who talk about politics very often with friends and family are more likely to post about politics on social networking sites. They are also more likely to say that the sites are important for political news and activities.

About the Data: The Pew data is based on a survey conducted from January 20-February 19, 2012 among 2,253 adults ages 18 and older, including 901 cell phone interviews. The sample size for social networking site users was 1,047.

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