Of Echo Chambers and Contrarian Clubs: Exposure to Political Disagreement Among German and Italian Users of Twitter

Cristian Vaccari, Augusto Valeriani, Pablo Barberà, John T. Jost, Jonathan Nagler, Joshua A. Tucker

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Scholars have debated whether social media platforms, by allowing users to select the information they are exposed to, may lead people to isolate themselves from viewpoints they disagree with, thereby serving as political “echo chambers.” We investigate hypotheses concerning the circumstances under which Twitter users who communicate about elections would engage with (a) supportive, (b) oppositional, and (c) mixed political networks. Based on online surveys of representative samples of Italian and German individuals who posted at least one Twitter message about elections in 2013, we find substantial differences in the extent to which social media facilitates exposure to similar vs. dissimilar political views. Our results suggest that exposure to supportive, oppositional, or mixed political networks on social media can be explained by broader patterns of political conversation (i.e. structure of offline networks) and specific habits in the political use of social media (i.e.the intensity of political discussion). These findings suggest that disagreement persists on social media even when ideological homophily is the modal outcome, and that scholars should pay more attention to specific situational and dispositional factors when evaluating the implications of social media for political communication.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalSocial Media and Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 6 Sept 2016


  • social media
  • political discussion
  • political homophily
  • political disagreement
  • political networks

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