Young Citizens, Social Media, and the Dynamics of Political Learning in the U.S. Presidential Primary Election

Stephanie Edgerly*, Kjerstin Thorson, Chris Wells

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study explores political learning among young adults during the 2016 U.S. presidential primary elections. We are interested in how the rise of digital and social media is affecting the ways young adults learn about political events as they happen. Using a rolling cross-section survey design, we surveyed a unique sample of American young adults every day for a period of 3 weeks. This method allows us to ask participants about breaking news events as they occur, and to connect knowledge of current events to self-report of media use during a very short time period. We examine the relationship between media exposure and political learning using both self-report media exposure measures and measures of the volume of attention to political events in the news media and via social sharing of news on Facebook. Results suggest that social media volume, not self-reports of exposure, was key in providing young adults with the opportunities to learn about politics during the 2016 U.S. primary season.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1042-1060
Number of pages19
JournalAmerican Behavioral Scientist
Volume62
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018

Keywords

  • Facebook
  • news exposure
  • political knowledge
  • survey
  • young adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences(all)

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