Theses Bachelor's

Can Deactivating Facebook Reduce Affective Polarization? Experimental Evidence and Heterogenous Effects Based on Partisan Identification Strength

Shen, David

Affective polarization describes the increasing amount of hostility that U.S. partisans feel toward the opposing political party, whether they are Democrats or Republicans. Importantly, rising levels of affective polarization have many adverse social and political consequences. This study tests whether deactivating one’s Facebook account can reduce levels of affective polarization. Unlike previous studies, I decompose affective polarization into its component parts: in-party positivity and out-party negativity. I find that deactivating Facebook reduces negative evaluations of the opposing political party, but has no effect on evaluations of one’s own party. This reduction in negativity as a result of account deactivation is quite large for independents who lean toward either major party; however, there is no change in affective evaluations of the opposing party for individuals who identify either weakly or strongly with either party. Although this study relies on Facebook deactivation, rather than usage, as a causal variable, these results
suggest that Facebook usage is contributing to rising levels of affective polarization. More concretely, these results indicate that reductions in Facebook usage could ameliorate the issue of rising hostility toward the political opposition.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Political Science
Thesis Advisors
Shapiro, Robert Y.
B.A., Columbia University
Published Here
May 1, 2023