To see how politically interested and engaged respondents to this survey are, we asked how often they talk about politics with family and friends. Some 33% say they have such conversations very often, 34% say they sometimes have such conversations, 20% say they rarely talk about politics, and 12% say they never talk about politics. It turns out that the social networking site users who say they very often talk about politics are different in their use of the sites and in assessing the impact of the sites on them.
For starters, those who generally like to talk about politics are much more likely to post material about politics on social networking sites. Some 14% of social networking site users who say they talk “very often” to family and friends about politics also say all or most of the material they post on SNS is about politics. This compares with a tiny fraction of other SNS users who say most of their posts are about politics.
In addition, those who talk to family and friends about politics a lot are more likely to have SNS friends who post a lot about politics. Some 12% of the politically engaged say all or most of their friends’ posts are about politics, compared with a tiny fraction of others who say their friends post that often about politics.
Those who are politically engaged are also more likely than less-engaged SNS users to see material posted by their friends that mostly reflects their own political views. Some 34% of those who talk very often about politics say the material they see on SNS mostly agrees with their beliefs. Still, it is also the case that the most engaged are just as likely as others to see political material on the sites from their friends with which they disagree.
When they do see political postings with which they disagree, the most engaged SNS users are more likely than others to follow up with a reply. Some 35% of those who talk about politics “very often” say they usually respond to material that challenges their views by posting a comment in reply, while 55% say they ignore such posts. The SNS users who don’t talk very often about politics are much more inclined simply to ignore a friend’s post that challenges their point of view. About three-quarters of the less politically engaged SNS users tend to ignore material with which they disagree.
Those who talk the most and post the most about politics are also more likely than others to have drawn a strong negative reaction to the political material they contribute to SNS. Some 42% of SNS users who talk a lot about politics say they have received some blowback about their posts.
In their overall judgment, the SNS users who are politically engaged are the most enthusiastic about the role of those sites in key political activities. They are more likely than those who are less engaged with politics to say the sites are useful for keeping up with political news, for debating issues, for recruiting people to their cause, and finding others who share similar beliefs.
The SNS users who are the most politically engaged are also more likely than others to say their use of social networking sites has prompted them to become more active in an issue that mattered to them.