Only 18% of social network users say they have taken some kind of step to ignore or disconnect from someone whose political views are different than theirs, per the results [pdf] of a Pew Internet & American Life Project survey released in March 2012. This is despite the finding that among users whose friends post political content, only one-quarter always or mostly agree with their friends’ political postings, while 73% say they only sometimes agree or never agree with them.Indeed, when disagreeing with others’ posts, two-thirds of these users say they usually just ignore the post, while 28% say they usually respond with their own posts or comments.
Posting too frequently about political subjects was the most divisive activity, driving 10% of users to block, unfriend, or hide someone on the site. This was closely followed by the 9% who dropped someone because they posted something about politics or issues that they disagreed with or found offensive, and the 8% who did so because the person argued about political issues on the site with the user or someone the user knows.
Liberals were more likely than moderates and conservatives to take a step based on all of the reasons identified in the report. Among the users who had dropped someone on a site, 67% did it to a distant friend or acquaintance, 31% to someone they had never met in person, and 31% to a close personal friend. Only 21% dropped a coworker, while 18% did so to a member of their family.
Ideologies Not Driving Friend Connections
Data from Pew’s “Social networking sites and politics” indicates that just as only a small proportion of users shun friends with different political ideas, the same applies to finding friends based on their views. Indeed, only 16% of social network users report having friended or followed someone because that person shared the user’s political views, although the proportion is higher among users who identify as very liberal (24%) or very conservative (25%).
Those with more fervent beliefs are also more likely than the average to like a political comment or material posted by someone else (~65% vs. 47%) and to have posted positive comments in response to someone else’s post or status update (~50% vs. 38%).
The overall indication that social network users do not display much passion about politics is mirrored by findings from a a report released in February 2012 by the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau (CAB). According to that report, just 3% of registered voters say that comments made on social media have the most influence on their voting decisions.
- Roughly 1 in 5 users have avoided making political comments or posting links to political material due to a concern that they might offend others.
- 37% of users who exchange political material said they have gotten strong negative reactions to the material they posted.
- 38% said they have discovered through a friend’s posts that the person’s political beliefs were different than the user thought they were. This is despite uSamp survey results from January 2012 that found that a majority of men (57.1%) and women (50.2%) are willing to share their political affiliation on social media sites.
About the Data: The results in the report are based on data from telephone interviews conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International from January 20 to February 19, 2012, among a sample of 2,253 adults, age 18 and older. Telephone interviews were conducted in English and Spanish by landline (1,352) and cell phone (901, including 440 without a landline phone).