ARTICLE: Facebook use as a predictor of political knowledge

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How does the use of Facebook connect to the level of people’s political knowledge? In a new study, researchers explored this relationship by analysing two representative datasets from the United States. One was a survey conducted by GfK Knowledge Networks in 2011-2012 and the other was secondary data based on a Pew Research Center survey in 2010.

When only looking at the general use of Facebook, there was no connection to political knowledge scores, the results show. However, when different kind of uses for Facebook were examined, associations to knowledge levels were found.

Increased use of Facebook for news consumption and news sharing was negatively related to political knowledge levels. “This suggests that a greater reliance on social media and Facebook specifically for news might serve to depress knowledge levels”, the authors write.

Even though the current article cannot explain the mechanisms behind this results, the researchers offer some possible explanations. These include selective exposure, the degree of openness to new information, and the use of different news sources.

Users who had had their account for longer, scored higher on political knowledge. As users have become more familiar with the platform, acquiring knowledge may have also become easier, the authors reflect.

The authors of the article are:

  • Michael A. Cacciatore of the University of Georgia
  • Sara K. Yeo and Dietram A. Scheufele of the University of Utah
  • Michael A. Xenos and Dominique Brossard of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and
  • Elizabeth A. Corley of Arizona State University.

The article “Is Facebook Making Us Dumber?” was published in Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly and is available one the publisher’s website (abstract free).

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