How social media is changing your political views
LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – With Election Day creeping closer, Twitter and Facebook feeds are full of politics. It's no surprise the candidates are also using social media now more than ever before.
A researcher and professor at the University of Louisville believes increased social media usage is driving the nation apart.
Dr. Jason Gainous has been studying the effect of social media on politics for more than a decade when Twitter and Facebook were just beginning.
"Their attitudes are going to start to become more extreme and crystallized even," Gainous said.
He's written dozens of papers and two books on the topic including one, "Tweeting to Power" about how politicians tweet.
"The thing that they do the least: talk about policy," Gainous said. "They thing that they do the most: go negative."?
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It may not be a surprising but Gainous said neither of those kinds of tweets helped in polls.
"What seems to shape the outcome is how likely they are to point people towards media stories," he said.
That means retweeting or sharing news stories that promote a candidate or tear down another make someone more likely to win.
The one exception to the rule may be Donald Trump. Gainous said more than any other candidate in the past, Trump is using Twitter not just to share stories but create them.
"Even if he doesn't win the presidency, he has definitely been successful at that," Gainous said.
Politicians aren't all to blame for increased political tension. You are.
"They don't want multiple sides," Gainous said. "They want their side."
Gainous found the more people were on social media, the more extreme their views became.
"That's frightening," he said.
It snowballs and gets worse because Facebook filters out the news or stories you don't like or agree with, making you see more and more of one political party.
"It's not a design that's intended to politically bias people," Gainous said. "It is a design that's intended to create a product that you like."
He said unfriending or unfollowing instead of discussing issues only hurts.
"We're increasing getting two publics that are moving further and further apart and they can't communicate with each other," Gainous said.
The one bright spot Gainous found is while people are splitting in different directions, younger users are slowly coming closer together when it comes to social issues.
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