Political Behavior

, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 711–735 | Cite as

From Respondents to Networks: Bridging Between Individuals, Discussants, and the Network in the Study of Political Discussion

  • Matthew T. Pietryka
  • Jack Lyons Reilly
  • Daniel M. Maliniak
  • Patrick R. Miller
  • Robert Huckfeldt
  • Ronald B. Rapoport
Original Paper


Much of our understanding of social influence in individual political behavior stems from representative surveys asking respondents to identify characteristics of a small number of people they talk to most frequently. By focusing only on these few close contacts, we have implicitly assumed that less-intimate associates and features of network structure hold little influence over others’ attitudes and behavior. We test these assumptions with a survey that attempted to interview all students at a small university during a highly-salient municipal election. By focusing on a small, well-defined community, we are able to explore the relationship between individuals, their close associates, and also less-immediate associates. We are also able to explore features of network structure unobtainable in representative samples. We demonstrate that these less-immediate associates and network features have the potential to exert important influence that conventional survey approaches would miss.


Political discussion Social networks Egocentric networks Name-generator survey batteries Attitudes Political behavior 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

11109_2017_9419_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1.2 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 1186 kb)


  1. Ansolabehere, S., & Hersh, E. (2010). The quality of voter registration records: A state-by-state analysis. Cambridge, MA: Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project Report.
  2. Ansolabehere, S., & Hersh, E. (2012). Validation: What big data reveal about survey misreporting and the real electorate. Political Analysis, 20(4), 437–459.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Berelson, B. F., Lazarsfeld, P. F., & McPhee, W. N. (1954). Voting. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  4. Burden, B. C. (2000). Voter turnout and the national election studies. Political Analysis, 8(4), 389–398.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Burt, R. S. (1986). A note on sociometric order in the General Social Survey Network Data. Social Networks, 8, 149–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Campbell, A., Converse, P. E., Miller, W. E., & Stokes, D. E. (1960). The American voter. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  7. Centola, D. (2010). The spread of behavior in an Online Social Network Experiment. Science, 329(5996), 1194–1197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Centola, D., & Macy, M. (2007). Complex contagions and the weakness of long ties. American Journal of Sociology, 113(3), 702–734.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Christakis, N. A., & Fowler, J. H. (2008). The collective dynamics of smoking in a Large Social Network. New England Journal of Medicine, 358(21), 2249–2258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Costenbader, E., & Valente, T. W. (2003). The stability of centrality measures when networks are sampled. Social Networks, 25(4), 283–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Eveland, W. P., Hutchens, M. J., & Morey, A. C. (2013). Political network size and its antecedents and consequences. Political Communication, 30(3), 371–394.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Eveland, W. P., & Kleinman, S. B. (2011). Comparing general and political discussion networks within voluntary organizations using social network analysis. Political Behavior, 35(1), 65–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fowler, J. H., et al. (2011). Causality in political networks. American Politics Research, 39(2), 437–480.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gelman, A., & Hill, J. (2007). Data analysis using regression and multilevel/hierarchical models. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Granovetter, M. (1973). The strength of weak ties. American Journal of Sociology, 78, 1360–1380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Granovetter, M. (1985). Economic action and social structure: The problem of embeddedness. American Journal of Sociology, 91, 481–510.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Groves, R. M., Presser, S., & Dipko, S. (2004). The role of topic interest in survey participation decisions. Public Opinion Quarterly, 68(1), 2–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hill, R. A., & Dunbar, R. I. M. (2003). Social network size in humans. Human Nature, 14(1), 53–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Huckfeldt, R. (1979). Political participation and the neighborhood social context. American Journal of Political Science, 23, 579–592.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Huckfeldt, R. (1983). Social contexts, social networks, and urban neighborhoods: environmental constraints on friendship choice. American Journal of Sociology, 89, 651–669.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Huckfeldt, R., Ikeda, K., & Pappi, F. (2005). Patterns of disagreement in democratic politics: Comparing Germany, Japan, and the United States. American Journal of Political Science, 49, 497–514.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Huckfeldt, R., Johnson, P. E., & Sprague, J. (2002). Political environments, political dynamics, and the survival of disagreement. The Journal of Politics, 64(01), 1–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Huckfeldt, R., Johnson, P. E., & Sprague, J. (2004). Political disagreement: The survival of diverse opinions within communication networks. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Huckfeldt, R., & Mendez, J. M. (2008). Moths, flames, and political engagement: Managing disagreement within communication networks. The Journal of Politics, 70(01), 83–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Huckfeldt, R., & Sprague, J. (1995). Citizens, politics, and social communication. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hurwitz, J., & Peffley, M. (1987). How are foreign policy attitudes structured? A hierarchical model. American Political Science Review, 81(04), 1099–1120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Jan, E. L., & Nagler, J. (2013). Who votes now?: Demographics, issues, inequality, and turnout in the United States. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Key, V. O., Jr. (1949). Southern politics. New York: Knopf.Google Scholar
  29. Klofstad, C. A., Sokhey, A. E., & McClurg, S. D. (2013). Disagreeing about disagreement: How conflict in social networks affects political behavior. American Journal of Political Science, 57(1), 120–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Langton, K. P., & Rapoport, R. (1975). Social structure, social context, and partisan mobilization: Urban workers in Chile. Comparative Political Studies, 8, 318–344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Laumann, E. O. (1973). Bonds of Pluralism. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  32. Lazarsfeld, P. F., Berelson, B. F., & Gaudet, H. (1948). The people’s choice. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Lazer, D., Rubineau, B., Chetkovich, C., Katz, N., & Neblo, M. (2010). The coevolution of networks and political attitudes. Political Communication, 27(3), 248–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Leifeld, P. (2013). Texreg: Conversion of Statistical Model Output in R to \LaTeX and HTML tables. Journal of Statistical Software, 55(8), 1–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Leighley, J. E., & Nagler, J. (1992). Individual and systemic influences on turnout: Who votes? 1984. The Journal of Politics, 54(03), 718–740.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Levitan, L. C., & Visser, P. S. (2009). Social network composition and attitude strength: Exploring the dynamics within newly formed social networks. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45(5), 1057–1067.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Long, J. S., & Freese, J. (2014). Regression models for categorical dependent variables using stata (3rd ed.). College Station, TX: Stata Press.Google Scholar
  38. Louch, H. (2000). Personal network integration: Transitivity and homophily in strong-tie relations. Social Networks, 22(1), 45–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Lyons, J., & Sokhey, A. (2014). Emotion, motivation, and social information seeking about politics. Political Communication, 31(2), 237–258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Marsden, P. V. (1987). Core discussion networks of Americans. American Sociological Review, 52, 122–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Marsden, P. V. (2003). Interviewer effects in measuring network size using a single name generator. Social Networks, 25(1), 1–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Matthews, D. R., & Prothro, J. W. (1963). Social and economic factors and Negro voter registration in the South. American Political Science Review, 57, 24–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. McClurg, S. D. (2003). Social networks and political participation: The role of social interaction in explaining political participation. Political Research Quarterly, 56, 448–465.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. McClurg, S. (2006). Political disagreement in context: The conditional effect of neighborhood context, disagreement and political talk on electoral participation. Political Behavior, 28(4), 349–366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Nickerson, D. W. (2008). Is voting contagious? Evidence from two field experiments. American Political Science Review, 102(01), 49–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Nyhan, B., & Reifler, J. (2010). When corrections fail: The persistence of political misperceptions. Political Behavior, 32(2), 303–330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. O’Connor, K. M., & Gladstone, E. (2015). How social exclusion distorts social network perceptions. Social Networks, 40, 123–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Redlawsk, D. P., Civettini, A. J. W., & Emmerson, K. M. (2010). The affective tipping point: Do motivated reasoners ever ‘get it’?: The affective tipping point. Political Psychology, 31(4), 563–593.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Roberts, S. G. B., Dunbar, R. I. M., Pollet, T. V., & Kuppens, T. (2009). Exploring variation in active network size: Constraints and ego characteristics. Social Networks, 31(2), 138–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Ryan, J. B. (2010). The effects of network expertise and biases on vote choice. Political Communication, 27(1), 44–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Ryan, J. B. (2011). Social networks as a shortcut to correct voting. American Journal of Political Science, 55(4), 753–766.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Selb, P., & Munzert, S. (2013). Voter overrepresentation, vote misreporting, and turnout bias in postelection surveys. Electoral Studies, 32(1), 186–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Simpson, B., Markovsky, B., & Steketee, M. (2011). Power and the perception of social networks. Social Networks, 33(2), 166–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Sinclair, B. (2012). The social citizen: Peer networks and political behavior. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Sinclair, B., McConnell, M., & Green, D. P. (2012). Detecting spillover effects: Design and analysis of multilevel experiments. American Journal of Political Science, 56(4), 1055–1069.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Sokhey, A. E., & McClurg, S. D. (2012). Social networks and correct voting. The Journal of Politics, 74(03), 751–764.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Song, H., & Eveland, W. P. (2015). The structure of communication networks matters: How network diversity, centrality, and context influence political ambivalence, participation, and knowledge. Political Communication, 32(1), 83–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Tingsten, H. (1963). Political Behavior: Studies in Election Statistics. London: P.S. King.Google Scholar
  59. VanderWeele, T. J. (2011). Sensitivity analysis for contagion effects in social networks. Sociological Methods & Research, 40(2), 240–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Walsh, K. C. (2004). Talking about politics: Informal groups and social identity in American life. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  61. Watts, D. J., & Strogatz, S. H. (1998). Collective dynamics of ‘small-world’ networks. Nature, 393(6684), 440–442.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Wolfinger, R. E., & Rosenstone, S. J. (1980). Who votes?. New Haven: Yale.Google Scholar
  63. Zaller, J. (1992). The nature and origins of mass opinion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew T. Pietryka
    • 1
  • Jack Lyons Reilly
    • 2
  • Daniel M. Maliniak
    • 3
  • Patrick R. Miller
    • 4
  • Robert Huckfeldt
    • 5
  • Ronald B. Rapoport
    • 3
  1. 1.Florida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA
  2. 2.New College of FloridaSarasotaUSA
  3. 3.College of William & MaryWilliamsburgUSA
  4. 4.University of KansasLawrenceUSA
  5. 5.University of CaliforniaDavisUSA

Personalised recommendations