While social media platforms are the primary source of political information for a growing number of people, a majority of Twitter users do not follow either member of Congress, their president or news media, a new study suggests. They are much more likely to follow Tom Hanks or Katie Perry than an elected official.
“However, the users who follow political accounts on Twitter adhere to insular online communities and usually follow and share information from their political in-group,” said Magdalena Wojcieszak, lead author and professor of communications at the University of California, Davis, and the University of California. from Amsterdam.
In other words, when we talk about ongoing debates about so-called “echo chambers” on social media platforms, the small group of users who follow political elites show clear political biases and deal with these elites in a very one-sided way.
The findings come after researchers from UC Davis and New York University analyzed four years of data from a sample of 1.5 million Twitter users.
Researchers concluded that while the group of social media users who exhibit political bias in their online behavior is small, it does have consequences. These users are much more empowered, participative and active online, reinforcing the general perception of unprecedented polarization.
The study was published Friday (Sept. 30) in scientific progress.
“In this project, we target national political elites because of their visibility and national influence on public opinion and the political process,” Wojcieszak said. But despite the fame and impact of presidents, congressmen, journalists, pundits and the news media, researchers found that only 40% of Twitter users follow one or more political “elites.” The remaining 60% do not follow any political actors at all.
“Given that we have analyzed more than 2,500 US political elite accounts, including Donald Trump, Joe Biden, prominent pundits such as Rachel Maddow and Sean Hannity, and the most popular media outlets such as MSNBC and Fox News, the fact that only 23 % of the representative sample of more than 1.5 million users who follow three or more such elite accounts is revealing,” Wojcieszak said.
The authors found that users who follow politicians, pundits, and news media are much more likely to follow their political in-group than the out-group elites (about 90% versus 10%) and share tweets from in-group elites overwhelmingly more often. than out-group tweets (with a ratio of about 13:1). And when users share out-group tweets, they tend to add negative comments to these reshares, further reinforcing ideological biases online.
The research also reveals important ideological asymmetries: conservative users are about twice as likely as liberals to share in-group versus out-group content, as well as add negative comments to out-group stocks.
“In general, the majority of US Twitter users are not interested enough in politics to follow even a single political or media elite on our list,” Wojcieszak said. Researchers wrote that they found this surprising, as Twitter users are widely believed to be more politically engaged than the general population.
Given growing radicalization in America, waning support for democratic norms, and growing support for political violence, concerns about political bias on social media platforms are justified, however small the groups displaying those biases may be.
“At the same time,” Wojcieszak said, “we must remember that these political biases are a far cry from the everyday online behavior of most politically disinterested Americans, who simply don’t care and prefer to immerse themselves in entertainment or sports. Our findings should inform us. should all help keep concerns about the so-called ‘echo chambers’ online in perspective.”
Co-authors of the study are: Andreu Casas, VU University Amsterdam; Xudong Yu, former PhD student at UC Davis, now University of Amsterdam; and Jonathan Nagler and Joshua A. Tucker, New York University Center for Social Media and Politics.
Research proves strong link between political bias and social bonding on Twitter
Magdalena Wojcieszak, Most users don’t follow political elites on Twitter; those who do show an overwhelming preference for ideological congruence, scientific progress (2022). DOI: 10.1126/sciaadv.abn9418. www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.abn9418
Quote: Most Twitter users don’t follow political elites, researchers suggest (September 2022, Sept. 30) retrieved Sept. 30, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-09-twitter-users-dont-political-elites. html
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