The relationship between social media usage, and populism & polarization in politics is a complex issue which needs to be studied and understood. Undoubtedly, social media make influence on people’s political decisions through media filter bubbles, and even fake news.
In Chadwick’s Chapter 10, Chadwick shared two stories or problems happened during the 2016 U.S. Presidential Campaign to explain the intensification of the hybrid media system. One is the Goldman’s tweet about the 2016 inauguration fake cake, which copied Goldman’s design for the Obama White House in 2013. The story was about a more authentic and humble form of celebrity—the minor celebrity baker defending his livelihood against Trump’s narcissism.
The other is about the argument and fake news online about the size of the crowd outside White House on the day of inauguration ceremony. Fact-checking has become an important form of hybrid journalism. However, the dilemma is that fact-checking can be assembled quickly and relatively cheaply, often from online fragments of information, such as tweets and charts from government reports. At the same time, it still enables journalists to become authoritative anchors in the sea of uncertainty that ususally washes around a political scandal. That situation can intensify hybridity of media.
The research by Groshek & Koc-Michalska (2017) breaks new ground by examining “how differing forms of social media use may relate to increased support for populist political candidates from the ideological left and right”.
More specifically, there are three research questions in this research. The first is: did more active, passive, or uncivil social media usage relate to supporting a specific presidential candidate? Secondly, to what extent do higher levels of social media activity, passivity, and incivility relate to a general preference for populism? The third is, was support for populist candidates related to having less heterogeneous social networks online and offline?
Basically, the research questions are set to figure out the relations between different social media behavior patterns and political choices & populism. It turned out that those active on social media are more likely to support Democratic populists than Republican populists; or we could say, “those who were more active social media users were also less likely to have supported Trump as their candidate”. Alternately, those that were more passive social media users had a greater likelihood to support Republican populism in general, and Trump in particular (Groshek & Koc-Michalska, 2017).
Differing forms of active, passive, and uncivil social media were taken into account in this research. The result suggests that active social media use for politics was actually related to less support for Republican populists, such as Trump, but that forms of both passive or uncivil social media use were linked to an increase in the likelihood of support to a level roughly equivalent to that of the traditional television viewing.
However, there is almost no support from the research that online network homogeneity, or being trapped in filter bubbles, is related to increasing the likelihood of increased support for populist political candidates.
In the 2016 U.S. Presidential Campaign, social media was definitely the central idea, and it certainly helped Trump with the election. The problem of the social media use, was not simply frequency of use or homogenous communicative networks (social filter bubbles), but “that vital aspects if digital and traditional journalism may have been lacking” (Groshek & Koc-Michalska, 2017). The lack of the vital aspects means a civic media environment becoming both polluted and saturate with widely competing and unsubstantiated truth claims.
The analysis by Guess, Nyhan and Reifler (2018) demonstrates the evidence of consumption of fake news during the 2016 U.S. Presidential Campaign. The data and analyses included illustrate in detail about total fake news consumption, estimated fact-checking consumption, the role of political knowledge, etc. The data show how severe the misinformation was in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Campaign.
All in all, social media definitely helped Trump in his 2016 Presidential Election, not just social media content and campaigning, but also a combination of television reliance, and a passive and uncivil social media use in a polarized political arena.
Groshek & Koc-Michalska (2017). Helping populism win? Social media use, filter bubbles, and support for populist presidential candidates in the 2016 US election campaign. Information, Communication & Society.
Guess, A., Nyhan, B., & Reifler, J. (2018). Selective Exposure to Misinformation: Evidence from the consumption of fake news during the 2016 US presidential campaign. European Research Council. 1-14.