The Role of Media in Political Polarization| When We Have to Get Along: Depolarizing Impacts of Cross-Cutting Social Media

Daniel J. Sude, Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick


Drawing upon spiral of silence theory and Brewer’s extension of social identity theory, an online experiment with adult Republican and Democrat participants (N = 407) found that the less favorable a national opinion climate Americans perceived, the warmer they felt toward out-group partisans. Addressing media effects, when these partisans browsed an online forum, in which they were in the minority (versus the majority), they tended to perceive a less favorable national opinion climate and in turn to report warmer attitudes toward out-group partisans, as observed in an indirect effects model examining change in the key variables. To ensure external validity, the forum used stimuli harvested from a complete corpus of Reddit posts collected between 2016 and 2018, with a sampling technique incorporating latent space modeling.


opinion climate, affective polarization, social media

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