Do Ideological Misfits Find Fit Online?: One Explanation for Selective Exposure
Melton, Zachary J
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While a considerable amount of research has examined the extent to which liberals and conservatives find ideologically similar others online, we do not know much about contextual factors (i.e. the political communities in which these people live) that may affect these social media habits. In 2 studies, I test the whether people living in areas where they are surrounded by dissimilar others go online to find people like them (the Misfit Enclavement Hypothesis) or if it’s people surrounded by similar others offline that seek dissimilar others online (the Diversity of Opinions Hypothesis). I also test ideological asymmetries in the extent to which ideological context affects the networks liberals and conservatives build online (Asymmetrical Misfit Enclavement Hypothesis). I found that liberals had more ideologically similar others in their networks online than conservatives (Study 1), but that both liberals and conservatives had networks especially constructed with similar others when they were also surrounded by similar others in their communities. When it came to self-report measures of network preference, liberals wanted less disagreement in their networks than conservatives. Conservatives wanted slightly more disagreement than liberals, but only when there were dissimilar others in those conservatives’ communities (Study 2).
SubjectIdeological fit, selective exposure, ideological differences, social network composition