Facebook Users Surprised By Friends' Politics

Dennis Faas's picture

A new survey suggests social media users frequently engage in political discussions with their friends online, and although they don't always agree on the subject, their differences rarely prompt a break in the relationship.

The study, which involved interviews with 2,253 adults, comes from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

It found that seven per cent of those asked said they always agreed with political comments made online by their friends, while 18 per cent did so most of the time.

However, 64 per cent of respondents said they agreed with their online friends only some of the time, and nine per cent claimed never to agree with the political comments of their friends. (Source: pewinternet.org)

Despite frequent differences of opinion, most users reported they don't engage in much debate.

Two out of every three respondents said they simply ignore comments they disagree with, while 28 per cent said they challenge opposing viewpoints. Five per cent react on a case-by-case basis.

Many Political Posts Surprise Friends

The survey also found that 38 per cent of people responding said a social networking post had made them realize a friend's political views were different from those they had previously thought the person held.

One particularly intriguing finding is that the proportion of self-professed liberals to conservatives was virtually identical both on and offline: roughly a six to five ratio.

Differences Between Twitter, Facebook Users Unexplored

One issue the study didn't investigate was political interests in relation to social networking affiliation.

For example, are people on Facebook more or less interested in politics than Twitter users? Are there differences in their tendencies to support political parties or points of view?

There is a theory on these questions, which suggests most people use Facebook to connect with friends, family and colleagues they know in real life, while Twitter users are more likely to follow people (including political figures) they don't know offline, but with whom they share similar interests.

This theory has led to concerns that frequent social media users gain an unrepresentative view of public opinion because they see comments from people who are likely to agree with them. (Source: canadianbusiness.com)

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