P7 (00 421 P7)
The role of social networks to explain political behaviour and attitudes
Form of presentation:
It is not only who you are, it is also who you know and whether they know each other. Exploring the effect of social networks on political participation in Belgium
Emilien Paulis | Université libre de Bruxelles | Belgium
The mobilizing effects of social networks have attracted a growing attention in political science. Many theoretical and empirical studies stressed the role that peers can play on triggering or hindering political participation (Burt & Klofstad 2008, Wolf et al. 2010, Huckfeldt & Sprague 2003, Sinclair 2012, Zuckerman 2005). Nonetheless, these contributions have not always relied on the full analytical power of Social Network Analysis to investigate the role of (personal) social networks in mobilizing individuals in politics: they simply integrate network indicators in basic statistical regressions. Moreover, they tend to focus on electoral participation and do not emphasize other, less conventional forms of participation. Based on data collected via an online survey among a sample quota of 2,800 Belgian citizens, this paper proposes a statistical network analysis of ego network data, using exponential random graph models (ERGM), to account for the structural effect of social networks on political participation. We question how social network structure (more specifically local density) might mediate peer pressure in affecting citizens’ political participation. As observations are sampled, inference regarding the whole Belgian population could also be drawn.
Dissimilarity in political discussion networks and change of political orientations in Switzerland
Anne Schäfer | Universität Mannheim | Germany
The relevance of citizens’ embedding into their immediate networks of political discussants for their electoral behavior has been established in numerous studies. Most of these studies, however, focus on cross-sectional observations leading to a deficit in our understanding of the consequences of political talk for the change of political orientations at the individual level. One feature of citizens’ interpersonal communication about politics attracted prominent attention – the dissimilarity of those engaged in these exchanges. Democracy is based on difference and on the recognition of conflict in complex societies; this should pertain not only to the public sphere but equally to private experience. In addition, dissimilarity is a necessary condition for change fueling the democratic process. The outstanding interest in experiences of dissimilarity in citizens’ daily interactions gained special momentum with the deliberative turn in democratic theory. However, there is a vivid debate whether exposure to dissimilar viewpoints is a blessing or a curse for democracy. While exchange with dissimilar others might instill democratic attitudes, its consequences for cognitions and behavior are a source of controversy. One such debate rests on the question whether dissimilarity is a source of individual instability or helps anchoring political preferences. Part of this controversy surely originates in the cacophony of conceptualizations of this feature of interpersonal political communication in existing research. Against this backdrop, the proposed paper investigates how citizens’ exposure to dissimilarity in political discussion networks affects the stability of their political orientations. The paper thus links two either controversial or understudied aspects in existing research. I will investigate the stability with regard to voting intentions throughout the course of the 2015 election campaign in Switzerland, but also in a long-term perspective comparing electoral choices at the 2011 and 2015 elections to the National Council. As the case of Switzerland very much contrasts with the conflict-ridden context of the United States on which most research in this field has been conducted it is of special interest in comparative perspective, suggesting the discussion of concepts and mechanisms in this specific institutional and cultural context. On the dissimilarity side the paper develops a conceptual framework for understanding the (dis)similiarity of those engaged in interpersonal communication about politics and proposes to innovatively compare the consequences of disagreement originating in different types of content – disagreement experienced during political exchanges, based on partisan preferences and rooting in dissimilarities on fundamental ideological orientations. The paper will investigate these questions using unique survey data from the 2015 Swiss National Election Study: The data includes a measure of citizens’ perception of the position of their political discussion partners on the left-right ideological dimension combined with other disagreement measures that have been successfully used in other election studies throughout Europe. Due to the panel design of the 2015 study intra-individual change can be linked to citizens’ embedding in (dis)similar discussion networks. The proposed paper will thus not only provide unique insights on electoral behavior in Switzerland, but enrich the international debate on the consequences of discussion disagreement for democratic citizenship more generally.