Incidental Exposure to Political Disagreement on Facebook and Corrective Participation: Unraveling the Effects of Emotional Responses and Issue Relevance
Scholarly debate persists as to whether political disagreement facilitates or inhibits involvement in political activities. This study contributes to the debate by focusing on incidental exposure—an important mechanism through which people encounter political disagreement on Facebook. Drawing on a laboratory experiment, this study finds that Facebook-based incidental exposure to counter-attitudinal information does not have a direct effect on corrective political participation (e.g., persuading others online about politics). Exposure to this type of information does, however, have an indirect positive impact on corrective participation through the mediating effects of anxiety, as suggested by affective intelligence theory and appraisal theories of emotion. A moderated mediation model indicates that the indirect effect through anxiety is particularly strong among individuals who consider the issue personally relevant. Implications are discussed in terms of how social media uses impact participatory democracy.