Political Behavior in Social Network Sites

Political Behavior in Social Network Sites

Weiwu Zhang (Texas Tech University, USA) and Sherice Gearhart (Texas Tech University, USA)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0315-8.ch086


The increasing popularity of social network sites (SNSs), such as Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Twitter, in political campaigns and governance, has captivated researchers in the past several years. This entry aims to provide a comprehensive review and synthesis of the burgeoning empirical research literature on political behavior in SNSs by leading researchers from various fields. Research domains under review include how citizens use SNSs for political purposes and the effects of SNSs on political attitudes and behavior such as social capital, civic engagement, and political participation, how candidates and voters utilize SNSs during election campaigns, how governmental institutions employ SNSs, and the potential dark side of SNSs such as selective exposure and political polarization. Finally, future research directions of the field are discussed.
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Overview: Political Behavior In Snss

SNSs did not gain mainstream popularity until 2003 (boyd & Ellison, 2007). SNSs, especially popular among young people, enable citizens to establish a member profile, provide online venues to connect to existing offline relationships (boyd & Ellison, 2007, p. 221) and potential new friends, and view other members’ connections. Individuals are increasingly using SNSs for political purposes. According to the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project, 22% of adult Internet users in 2010 reported using SNSs for politically-related activities (Smith, 2011). Of those, 45% of young SNS users (ages 18-29) reported using SNSs for political purposes during the 2010 midterm elections (Smith, 2011). Additionally, users who use SNSs for political purposes tend to do so mainly for social reasons (Kaye, 2010).

Scholars have begun to examine political uses of SNSs and the impact such uses have on individuals. Existing political research pertaining to SNSs has focused on examining the use of Facebook though many other SNSs exist (e.g., Kaye, 2010; Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe, 2007). Therefore, one major area of research is types of users of SNSs, their different levels of political uses of SNSs and the diverse motivations for visiting political SNSs from a uses and gratifications perspective (e.g., Kaye, 2010).

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