Political discussion network homogeneity and partisan selective exposure




Thompson, Jacob Reid

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This thesis examines the nature of political discussion networks in the period leading up to the 2016 presidential election and the relationship between discussion network composition and partisan selective exposure. Using a nationally representative panel survey, this research examines the partisan makeup of discussion networks across sociodemographic factors, evaluating mainstream media narratives that attribute surprise at Donald Trump’s victory within to voting blocs insulating themselves from alternative views. It also examines whether there is a relationship over time between discussion network partisanship and homogeneity and partisan selective exposure. It finds differences in network partisanship and network partisan distance from ego across respondent partisan affiliation, race, and income consistent with a theoretical framework that suggests partisan sorting is an indirect result of geographic sorting. Further, it concludes that there is a relationship between network partisan distance from ego and subsequent selective exposure, in line theoretical models in which discussion with like-minded alters reinforces partisan attitudes, which lead to further selective exposure


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