Discussion Networks, Issues, and Perceptions of Polarization in the American Electorate

Citation data:

Political Behavior, ISSN: 0190-9320, Vol: 39, Issue: 4, Page: 967-988

Publication Year:
2017
Usage 79
Abstract Views 74
Link-outs 5
Captures 16
Readers 15
Exports-Saves 1
Social Media 12
Tweets 12
Citations 1
Citation Indexes 1
Repository URL:
https://scholarworks.boisestate.edu/polsci_facpubs/181
DOI:
10.1007/s11109-017-9387-7
Author(s):
Lyons, Jeffrey; Sokhey, Anand E.
Publisher(s):
Springer Nature
Tags:
Social Sciences; polarization; discussion networks; disagreement; Political Science
Most Recent Tweet View All Tweets
article description
Drawing on the sizable literature on polarization in the American public, we consider the link between discussion network composition and perceptions of polarization. Participants in the 2008–2009 ANES panel study were asked to complete an innovative battery; they interactively moved histograms to rate other groups’ positions on several prominent issues. These novel exercises provide data on individuals’ projections of the average attitudes of others, but critically, they also provide data on the variability of such attitudes. Thus, we use these “response-distributions” to thoroughly assess (1) the relationship between network characteristics and perceptions of the distance between party opinions, and (2) the relationship between network characteristics and perceptions of the homogeneity of opinions within parties. We find evidence that discussion networks track with individual perceptions of the parties in the electorate: exposure to interpersonal disagreement predicts the perception of less distance between (the mean opinions of) the parties, and the reporting of more heterogeneity of opinion within the parties. We conclude by discussing the implications of these findings for democratic functioning more generally.