Survey says: Politics and Face Book don’t mix

With November quickly approaching, Facebook is rife with election chatter, but a new study finds that even when Facebook friends disagree with each other's posts about politics, they tend to ignore the content.

In phone interviews with 2,253 adults ages 18 and over, the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that only a quarter of social network users always or mostly agree with their friends political posts. The majority, 73 percent, agrees with friends' posts "only sometimes." When they do differ in opinion, 66 percent usually ignore the offending post. Just over a quarter (28 percent) responds with their own posts, and 5 percent said they might respond depending on the circumstances.

In its report, unveiled today at SXSW, Pew also learned that 38 percent of people are surprised to learn the political opinions of their friends via posts on social networks.

SXSW 2012 Bug

The most aggressive political posters are also those with the most extreme views - those that are either very conservative or very liberal.

"As a rule, the most active and engaged political participants on SNS (social networks) sit at opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, yet their experiences around political material on SNS are quite similar. Very liberal users and very conservative users are often the most likely to have acted for and against others on SNS," Pew explained.

Pew also noted that among the 80 percent of adults who use the Internet, 66 percent use social networking sites. Out of this population, 75 percent said their friends post "at least some" political content and more than a third (37 percent) post political content occasionally.

Though many ignore this content, 10 percent of social network users have blocked, unfriended, or hidden someone because they posted about politics too often. Nine percent have done this because they disagreed with a friend or were offended by a post, and 8 percent removed or hid a friend because of an argument over political issues. However, the person removed or hidden is usually a distant friend or acquaintance, not a close friend or family member.

Last week, Pew released a report that showed Google to be overwhelmingly dominant in search, despite recent privacy concernts.

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  1. Miles Rost
    This is one reason why I've largely left the political arena. I found that I was isolating myself and not enjoying things, and getting to become much more hostile to opposing opinions. After dropping out of politics for a while before coming back to the states, I felt better. Technology in general, though, is also tearing us apart a bit. So it's kind of a double whammy.
  2. Brian Overholt
    Maybe it's partially because I'm a little younger (31), but political and religious discussion is what I enjoy most about social media. I love the debate. I am aware and the vast majority are not like me in that respect, but I enjoy it because I feel I learn so much more by engaging opposing opinion than I would any other way. When you find an intelligent person that feels strongly about an issue or topic, they will usually do their best to make the strongest argument possible for their perspective.... it's the quickest way to hear the best arguments that the other side has to offer. I am pretty conservative on most issues. And I feel pretty strongly about my personal convictions. I try to always be civil and sensitive with the things that I post, but I would be surprised if I haven't lost a few friends over my stance on abortion, for example. Also, it may be true that political posts usually come from people at the extreme ends of the spectrum... but with many issues (like homosexual marriage or abortion) there is no moderate position. Everybody is either for it or not... end of story. And the people that don't post are just too timid to speak their minds and stand up for what they believe in. That's my opinion, anyway.
  3. Rick Dancer
    Brian, I hear you but I think the reason some people are so afraid to speak out is you pay for it. I understand that. I have people who don't use my services because they think I'm too Republican or too Christian or whatever. If they knew me, or took the time to know me, they would understand I am neither. A local newspaper tries to paint me as some right-winger and every time the Register Guard does an article they must label me. I understand people's fear but I personally refuse to allow the "controllers" to win.

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