Hey, Zuckerberg: Social media can change political opinions

Hey, Zuckerberg: Social media can change political opinions. But recent findings from the Pew Research Center suggest the opposite is true, as 20 percent of social media users say they've changed their stance on a political issue because of something they saw on sites like Facebook. "People who said they had changed their minds on [the presidential] candidates often said that social media pointed their opinion in a more negative direction," Pew research associate Monica Anderson said in a post about the survey that was published Monday. The surveys behind that research were completed earlier this year, long before Election Day, so it's impossible to state with any certainty that shifting opinions translated into political action. Originally I was against gay marriage and have now accepted it." In fairness, that's somewhat beside the point: The question is fundamentally about whether people can be influenced by information they see on social media. Who are these people? Of that population of social media users, 1,557 said they were Republican or Republican-leaning, while 1,929 were Democrats or leaning in that direction. Self-identified liberal Democrats were most likely to say they'd changed their minds on a political or social issue because of something they saw on social media, at 25 percent overall. Do keep in mind that the overwhelming majority — 82 percent — of the individuals surveyed said they never changed their opinion of a candidate because of social media.

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A woman uses her phone under a Facebook logo on Nov. 2, 2016.
A woman uses her phone under a Facebook logo on Nov. 2,
2016.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t
believe
that fake news on his social network influenced the
election.

But recent
findings
from the Pew Research Center suggest the opposite is
true, as 20 percent of social media users say they’ve changed their
stance on a political issue because of something they saw on sites
like Facebook. The shift was usually pessimistic.

“People who said they had changed their minds on [the
presidential] candidates often said that social media pointed their
opinion in a more negative direction,” Pew research associate
Monica Anderson said in a
post
about the survey that was published Monday.

“Respondents who indicated they had changed their minds about
Clinton were more than three times as likely to say that their
opinion changed in a negative direction rather than a positive one
(24% vs. 7%), and respondents who mentioned Trump were nearly five
times as likely to say that their opinion became more negative as
opposed to more positive (19% vs. 4%),” she added.

The findings are pulled from
more extensive Pew research
on politics and social media that
was published last month. The surveys behind that research were
completed earlier this year, long before Election Day, so it’s
impossible to state with any certainty that shifting opinions
translated into political action.

Still, the anecdotes collected by Pew…

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