Saturday, November 11, 2017

We don't share political opinions with co-workers to avoid potential conflict, giving the impression of greater homogeneity and, paradoxically, more polarization

“It could turn ugly”: Selective disclosure of attitudes in political discussion networks. Sarah K.Cowan and Delia Baldassarri. Social Networks, Volume 52, January 2018, Pages 1-17.

•    We study under which conditions people reveal their political views to their discussion partners.
•    Americans are more likely to share their opinions with friends and family rather than co-workers.
•    We document the mechanism of selective disclosure.
•    Individuals, to avoid conflict, withhold their political views from those with whom they disagree.
•    What consequences selective disclosure has on social influence and political polarization?

Abstract: This article documents individuals selectively disclosing their political attitudes and discusses the consequences of these communication patterns for social influence and the democratic process. Using a large, diverse sample of U.S. resident adults, we ask under which conditions do people reveal their political preferences versus keeping them close to the vest. We find Americans are more likely to share their opinions with friends and family rather than co-workers and they are more likely to share their opinions on more salient topics. More importantly, they withhold their political attitudes specifically from those with whom they disagree in an attempt to avoid conflict. This produces the experience of highly homogeneous social contexts, in which only liberal or conservative views are voiced, while dissent remains silent, and oftentimes goes unacknowledged. This experience is not the result of homogeneous social contexts but the appearance of them. Paradoxically, the mechanism of selective disclosure, whose goal is to prevent conflict at the micro-level, might lead to the perception of greater division in the larger society.

Check also Brandt, Mark J, Jarret Crawford, and Daryl Van Tongeren. 2017. “Worldview Conflict in Daily Life”. PsyArXiv. September 29.

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