The project titled, Political Polarization and Media Habits, “looks at the ways people get information about government and politics in three different settings: the news media, social media and the way people talk about politics with friends and family,” Pew explained.
Pew evaluated political polarization by separating individuals into five ideological groups (consistent liberals, mostly liberals, mixed, mostly conservatives and consistent conservatives) based on 10 questions about a range of political values.
Those at both the left and right ends of the spectrum, the ‘consistent liberals’ and the ‘consistent conservatives,’ comprise about 20 percent of the public overall, and according to Pew, “have a greater impact on the political process than do those with more mixed ideological views,” because they are more likely to vote, donate to campaigns and participate in politics.
When it comes to social media, consistent conservatives and consistent liberals vary in the way they consume the media as well as how they react to it.
According to the study, 44 percent of consistently liberal Facebook users have hidden, blocked or defriended, or stopped following someone on social media because they disagreed with a political post. In contrast, 31 percent of consistently conservative individuals did the same.
“While consistent conservatives are the most likely to see Facebook posts in line with their political views, consistent liberals are the most likely to block others on social networking sites because they disagree with their content,” explained Pew.
Consistent conservatives are less likely to get their news on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, because as a whole they are less likely to visit those sites in the first place.
“About half (49%) of consistent liberals (and a similar share of those with mixed ideological views) say they got news about government and politics in the past week from Facebook, compared with 40% of consistent conservatives. And while 13% of consistent liberals say they got political news on Twitter in the past week, just 5% of consistent conservatives (and 8% of groups in between) say the same,” Pew explained.
“Similar to what the data reveals about people’s circle of friends on Facebook, consistent liberals might have close friends that span a wider mix of political views than consistent conservatives, but they are the most likely to stop talking to or being friends with someone because of politics,” Pew added.
According to the study, 24 percent of consistently liberal individuals say they stopped talking to or stopped being friends with someone because of politics. In contrast, 16 percent of consistently conservative individuals said the same.
“Consistent liberals are somewhat less likely than consistent conservatives to have politically like-minded friends. About half (52%) say most of their friends share their views – though that is still twice that of those in the middle. And 12% are not aware of their close friends’ political views,” Pew stated.
“Though only about one-in-ten respondents (12%) say they have stopped talking to or being friends with someone because of politics, about a quarter (24%) of consistent liberals have done this. This compares with 16% of consistent conservatives and 10% or less among those who are less ideologically consistent,” Pew added.