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.
Ian Shapiro, Steven Richardson, Scott McClurg, and Anand Sokhey
Mei-Chen Lin and Paul Haridakis
Individuals’ political membership of and identification with their political parties or ideologies influence how they interact with members of their own group/party (ingroup) and other groups/parties (outgroups). Such sense of “group-ness” (i.e., us-them) motivates people to find ways to posit their group in a positive light (i.e., ingroup favoritism) and engage in attitudes and behaviors that help maintain a desired political group status. These attitudes and behaviors can include a positively biased attitude toward one’s own political group over the other groups, a tendency to seek information that confirms the viewpoints and reflects positive aspects of one’s own political group, or a perception that the media exhibit bias toward their political group. Hence, we can consider political activities, attitudes, and communication (including media use) as inherently intergroup behaviors where members of political groups constantly appraise political discourse and political landscape through an intergroup lens. These intergroup phenomena are particularly salient during election seasons where political group boundaries are erected and political discourses around core ideological beliefs are debated. Accordingly, it is important to understand better links between intergroup factors (e.g., intergroup attitudes and behaviors), and political media use. This requires: (a) examining how intergroup factors have been considered in political communication research; (b) assessing political media use and effects in a political context, specifically media effects that could potentially be driven by political group identity and political intergroup attitudes; (c) discussing studies that have highlighted intergroup variables in the process of media selection and effects and how we may conceptualize political media research in an intergroup framework; and (d) considering additional intergroup factors that might be relevant and informative to our understanding of political activities and attitudes and media selection and effects in political settings.