Polls Versus Commenters: Effects of Cross-Cutting Opinion Climates on Cross-Platform Opinion Expression
Few spiral of silence studies have explored the influence of cross-cutting, multiple opinion climates on opinion expression outcomes across different online platforms. A 2 ´ 2 online experiment, accounting for individual issue-based and culturally influenced dispositions, reveals a main effect of individuals’ perceived opinion congruity with forum commenters but not with public opinion polls on opinion expression. An interaction effect shows that individuals are more likely to post comments when they perceive opinion congruity with forum commenters and when they perceive incongruity with public poll results, with a greater overall likelihood to comment on social media (Facebook) than on website forums. Significant relationships are also found between the likelihood of expressing one’s opinion and personal issue involvement, fear of authority, and fear of breaking the law online. Implications of the findings for the theoretical scope of an online spiral of silence in multiple opinion climates and cross-platform opinion expression are discussed.