Chris Bail, Duke University

Exposure to Opposing Views can Increase Political Polarization: Evidence from a Large-Scale Experiment on Social Media
Chris Bail

Description

Semester: 
Fall 2018
Lecture Time: 
Friday, October 19, 2018 - 1:30pm to 3:00pm
Lecture Location: 
R0220 Ross School of Business

Abstract

There is mounting concern that social media sites contribute to political polarization by creating "echo chambers" that insulate people from opposing views about current events. We surveyed a large sample of Democrats and Republicans who visit Twitter at least three times each week about a range of social policy issues. One week later, we randomly assigned respondents to a treatment condition in which they were offered financial incentives to follow a Twitter bot for one month that exposed them to messages produced by elected officials, organizations, and other opinion leaders with opposing political ideologies. Respondents were re-surveyed at the end of the month to measure the effect of this treatment, and at regular intervals throughout the study period to monitor treatment compliance. We find that Republicans who followed a liberal Twitter bot became substantially more conservative post-treatment, and Democrats who followed a conservative Twitter bot became slightly more liberal post-treatment. These findings have important implications for the interdisciplinary
literature on political polarization as well as the emerging field of computational social science.

Additional Notes

Chris Bail is the Douglas and Ellen Lowey Associate Professor of Sociology and Public Policy at Duke. His research examines political polarization, culture and social psychology using tools from the emerging field of computational social science (e.g. digital trace data from social media sites, automated text analysis, and machine learning).

Chris is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Carnegie Fellowship, and numerous awards from the American Sociological Association, the Association for Research on Non-Profit Organizations and Voluntary Action, and other scholarly associations. His research has been published by Princeton University Press, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Journal of Public Health, the American Sociological Review, and other leading publications. Funding for his work has been provided by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Russell Sage Foundation. His research has also been covered by major media outlets such as NBC News, National Public Radio, the Washington Post, and the BBC.

Chris is the Editor of the Oxford University Press Series in Computational Social Science and the co-founder of the Summer Institutes in Computational Social Science, which are free training events designed to introduce junior scholars to the field that are held concurrently in seven universities around the world each year. Chris also serves on the Advisory Council to the National Science Foundation's Social Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate, and helped create Duke's Interdisciplinary Data Science Program. He is also the Director of Duke's new Polarization Lab.

Reading List

Bail, C. A., Argyle, L., Brown, T., Bumpuss, J., Chen, H., Hunzaker, M. F., … Volfovsky, A. (2018, March 19). Exposure to Opposing Views can Increase Political Polarization: Evidence from a Large-Scale Field Experiment on Social Media. https://doi.org/10.31235/osf.io/4ygux