Note: This workshop is open only to faculty and scholars at Stanford University and other academic institutions, not the general public.
Numerous studies argue that social media exacerbates political polarization and distorts the political news landscape (see, for example, Pariser 2011; Conover et al. 2011; Sunstein 2018). However, limited empirical evidence informs this argument. We use a large-scale social media study to understand how news consumption within Twitter echo chambers affects participants’ political attitudes during high salience political events. Our study combines social network analysis and supervised machine learning to examine the relationship between social media networks and political polarization. We find that individuals’ opinions on a variety of political issues tend to converge on the modal opinion of media elites within their echo chambers following major political events. We use this evidence to suggest that people politically sort—rather than polarize—vis-à-vis social media echo chambers.
About the Project on Democracy and the Internet Workshop Series:
The Project on Democracy and the Internet organizes regular workshops, hosted by Nathaniel Persily, James B. McClatchy Professor of Law at Stanford, for scholars studying democracy in the digital age. The goal of this workshop series is to increase the sense of intellectual community and enhance the overall quality of research as we build this new field of study.