Political Opinions of Us and Them and the Influence of Digital Media Usage
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Democracies in the late 2010s are threatened by political movements from the borders of the political spectrum. Right-wing populist parties increasingly find agreement in larger parts of the population. How are these people convinced to these political beliefs? One explanation can be seen in polarization and the phenomena that arise from it such as the spiral of silence. In this article we empirically investigate how digital media usage influences the perception of polarization in Germany using a survey with 179 respondents. We use polarized opinions and measure agreement from two perspectives with them. We find an influence of social media usage on the perception of polarization in our sample. Further, polarization seems to be perceived differently depending on the topic. The results contribute to an understanding of how to adequately design presentation of sensitive or controversial topics in digital social media and could be utilized in student eduction to sensitize social media users to the effect of polarization of opinions.
KeywordsOpinion forming Fake news Polarization Social media use
The authors thank all participants for their openness to share their personal view on a sensitive topic. This work was funded by the State of North Rhine-Westphalia under the grant number 005-1709-0006, project “Digitale Mündigkeit” and project-number 1706dgn017. We also thank Karina Herdt, Jens Keulen, Natia-Marta Tsikelashvili, Ceren Yilmaz and Victoria Yuryeva for setting up the survey and collecting the data.
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