, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 65-87
Date: 10 Dec 2011

Comparing General and Political Discussion Networks Within Voluntary Organizations Using Social Network Analysis

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Political discussion networks are influenced by the opportunities for political interactions within our larger social environments and more general discussion networks. In this study we compare general and political discussion networks using full sociometric social network data from a probability sample of voluntary organizations—specifically, intact student activity groups from a large Midwest research university. We find that even within these “weak tie” voluntary associations, general discussion networks clearly constrain the characteristics of the political discussion networks. However, political discussion networks appear to be less dense and more likely to be broken up into disconnected components than the general discussion networks. But, general and political networks do not appear to differ in their structuring by perceptions of discussant knowledge. And, most interestingly, we find that on average neither general nor political discussion networks are characterized by political homogeneity.