Ego-Network Difference, Political Communication, and Affective Polarization During Political Contention

Francis L. F. Lee


This study examines the implications of ego-network difference, understood as the presence of (perceived) political disagreement between a person and people in his or her social network, on affective polarization in the context of a contentious protest movement. Based on arguments from contact theory and the literature on the influence of interpersonal political discussions, this study tests a series of hypotheses about how ego-network difference shapes extents of interpersonal political discussion, amount of cross-cutting exposure, and attitude toward the political outgroup. Analysis of survey data in Hong Kong shows that ego-network difference is related to lower levels of interpersonal political discussions, higher levels of cross-cutting exposure, and lower levels of affective polarization. It undermines negative attitude toward the political outgroup both directly and indirectly through reducing interpersonal discussions, though not through cross-cutting exposure. Moreover, ego-network difference weakens the relationship between interpersonal discussion and polarization. Theoretical implications of the findings are discussed.


affective polarization, ego-network difference, network heterogeneity, cross-cutting exposure, interpersonal political discussion, Hong Kong

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