Strong-tie diversity and weak-tie diversity : the paradoxical roles of Internet use and political tolerance in supporting political diversity and participation
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The purpose of this study is: 1) to explore the ways in which the Internet may affect individuals’ political diversity in different strengths of social relationships; 2) to identify which of strong-tie diversity and weak-tie diversity contributes more to political tolerance; and 3) to investigate the extent to which tolerant people are different from the less tolerant in their participation decisions when exposed to political diversity. In order to examine the contribution of Internet news use to political heterogeneity, the current study examines the moderation of the negative influence of politically selective exposure on the Internet on political diversity in social networks by Internet news use. To identify the better contributor to tolerance, the two diversities are compared. To assess the consequence of exposure to political difference for political participation for tolerant and less tolerant people, the present study examines any moderating effect of tolerance between political network heterogeneity and participation. It also observes the moderating effect in different tie strengths. This study utilizes data obtained from the U.S. Citizenship, Involvement, Democracy (CID) survey conducted by a collaboration of Center for Democracy and Civil Society at Georgetown University and the European Social Survey. The sample is 1,001 adults aged 18 and over and representative of the contiguous United States. The dataset contains items concerning Internet use, informal social networks, the composition and diversity of ties and associations, democratic values and tolerance under the primary themes of democracy, social capital and civic engagement. The data are analyzed by hierarchical and OLS regression. According to the findings, Internet news use contributes to individuals’ overall political diversity by reducing the negative influence of the selective exposure occurring from online interaction with homogeneous people. When examined in different strengths of interpersonal relationships, selective exposure discourages strong-tie diversity while encouraging weak-tie diversity. Internet news use positively affects strong-tie diversity but had no influence on weak-tie diversity. Weak-tie diversity is found to be a better contributor to political tolerance. Politically tolerant individuals tend to be discouraged for political participation when exposed to difference in their social relationships. Therefore, while political tolerance may increase overall political diversity, it may as well threaten the balance between deliberation and participation. Closer interpersonal associations are not found to reduce the demobilizing effect of exposure to difference for tolerant individuals.
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