Discussion Networks in Political Decision Making
- Ian Shapiro, Ian ShapiroDepartment of Political Science, University of Colorado Boulder
- Steven Richardson, Steven RichardsonDepartment of Political Science, Southern Illinois University
- Scott McClurgScott McClurgDepartment of Political Science, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale
- and Anand SokheyAnand SokheyDepartment of Political Science, University of Colorado
Decades of work have illuminated the influence interpersonal networks exert on voting behavior, political participation, the acquisition of political knowledge, tolerance, ambivalence, and attitude polarization. These central findings have largely been grounded in examinations of political discussion and have remained robust to measurement differences of key concepts like disagreement, various data collection methods, and multiple research designs ranging from the cross-sectional to large-scale field experiments. By comparison, scholars understand considerably less about individuals’ motivation to approach their social contacts when it comes to politics, and about why networks produce the outcomes that they do; this calls researchers to reflect on and revisit previous research, but also to consider new paths of research. Although there is a growing body of promising work focused on “whole,” or complete, networks, much can also be gained by better integrating social psychology into the study of egocentric, or “core,” political networks.
Answering these (and other) questions will help connect current findings, emerging methods, and nascent theory. Such connections should advance dialogues between research on group influence, discussion networks, and individual political behavior.